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SAT Vocabulary: Studying Up on Suffixes

Are you the type of person who reads the last chapter of a book first? Do you want to know the ending of a movie before you go to see it? If so, suffixes — letters or syllables added at the end of a word — are for you. Memorizing a few of these basic endings can help you to define and remember many different words.

–able, –ible = capable of, worthy of: Someone huggable is worthy of being hugged. Something legible is capable of being read. A navigable waterway can be navigated or sailed on. A risible cartoon makes you laugh.

–ate = to make: To duplicate is to make double. To renovate is to make new again (nov– means new). To placate is to make peaceful or calm (plac– means peace or calm).

–cess, –cede = to go, to yield: When you precede, you go before. When your hairline recedes (you have a few years before you have to worry about that, right?), it goes backward. When you accede to a request, you agree with it; go along with it; yield to it. Secession is formal withdrawal, going away from (the southern states seceded from the Union just before the Civil War).

–cide = killing, to kill: Pesticide kills pests or insects. Genocide is a killing of a race or group of people. Uxoricide is the murder of a wife by her husband. Many TV shows feature uxoricide episodes that are neatly solved by the detective in just 60 minutes.

–cis = cut: An incision is a cut. To excise is to cut out, like excising a tumor. You use scissors to cut. Interestingly, the word precise comes from this same root. A precise comment is exact, has cut off all excess, and gotten right to the point.

–ette = little: A cigarette is a little cigar. A dinette table is a little dining table. A coquette is a little flirt (literally, a little chicken).

–ify (also –efy)= to make: To beautify is to make beautiful. To ossify is to make bone. (If you break your wrist, it takes weeks to ossify again; for the bone to regenerate.) To deify is to make into a deity, a god.

–illo = little: An armadillo is a little armored animal. A peccadillo is a little sin. (Do you speak Spanish? Pecar is to sin.)

–ist = a person: A typist is a person who types. A pugilist is a person who fights (pug– means war or fight), a boxer. A pacifist is a person who believes in peace, a noncombatant (pac– means peace or calm).

–ity = a noun suffix that doesn't actually mean anything; it just turns a word into a noun: Jollity is the noun form of jolly. Serenity is the noun form of serene. Timidity is the noun form of timid.

–ize, –ise (British)= to make: To alphabetize is to make alphabetical. To immunize is to make immune. To ostracize is to make separate from the group; to shun. If you walk around chirping merrily, "C'mon over to my house tonight, and we can all study suffixes," expect to find yourself ostracized.

–logy, –ology = study: Biology is the study of life. Geology is the study of the earth. Any idea what phrenology is? It's the study of the bumps on your head! In the 1800s, it was popular to try to determine what type of person you were by feeling the shape of your skull.

–ous = full of (very): Someone joyous is full of joy. Someone amorous is full of amor, or love, and is very loving. Something capacious is full of capacity or has a very large capacity. You shop for a capacious backpack that can hold your books, phone, laptop, calculator, and lunch.

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