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Understand Suffixes to Expand Your Vocabulary

The larger your vocabulary is, the faster you can read because you don’t stumble as often on words you don’t know or recognize. When you read words that you’re already familiar with, you read beyond the words for their meanings. In the act of reading, you absorb ideas, thoughts, feelings, and descriptions — not individual words. You see the forest, not the trees.

One way to get a head start on expanding your vocabulary is to be able to recognize and interpret prefixes, roots, and suffixes in words. Many English words are constructed from the same prefixes, roots, and suffixes. Master these affixes (as linguists call them) and you can interpret many words you don’t understand without having to resort to a dictionary.

A suffix appears at the end of a word and gives the word a different inflection or meaning. The following table gives you some common suffixes, plus their meanings and examples of them in action.

Common Suffixes
Suffix Meaning Example words
able (ible) capable of agreeable, manageable, visible
ade result of an action blockade, stockade
age result of spillage, storage, wreckage
al (ial) relating to categorical, gradual, manual, territorial
algia sickness myalgia, neuralgia, nostalgia
an native of or to American, artisan, Cartesian
ance (ence) state assistance, defiance, independence,
ancy (ency) capacity agency, vacancy, transparency
ate office candidate, graduate, potentate
ation state matriculation, specialization
cian having a skill magician, physician
cy action infancy, privacy, prophecy
dom quality freedom, kingdom, wisdom
ee person receiving action nominee, refugee, employee
en made of molten, silken, waxen
er comparative brighter, happier, tougher
er (or) doer boxer, collector, lover, professor
escene in process adolescence, obsolescence
ese native of Chinese, Japanese
esis (osis) in process hypnosis, neurosis, mimesis
est superlative cleanest, fastest, happiest
et (ette) small anklet, baguette
fic causing horrific, terrific
fold manner of manifold, tenfold
ful full of bountiful, fanciful, mindful
fy making deify, indemnify, simplify
hood condition adulthood, childhood, manhood
ian one who is pedestrian, equestrian
iatry healing podiatry, psychiatry
ic quality of acidic, metallic, monolithic
ic arts, sciences arithmetic, economics
ice condition justice, malice
ile quality domicile, juvenile, projectile
ion condition abduction, reaction
ish comparative foolish, newish, whitish
ism condition alcoholism, baptism, neologism
ist profession artist, dentist, podiatrist
ite quality anchorite, socialite, urbanite
ity (ty) quality celebrity, clarity, novelty
ive quality abusive, cooperative, sensitive
ize cause, make emphasize, fantasize, proselytize
less without loveless, mindless, motionless
ment state abatement, contentment, refinement
ness quality calmness, kindness, tenderness
ology study of biology, geology, neurology
ous quality adventurous, courageous, nervous
ship relationship ambassadorship, brinksmanship, friendship
some quality adventuresome, lonesome, winsome
ure condition conjecture, exposure, rapture
ward direction forward, heavenward, southward
y tending to crafty, faulty, guilty
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