What is an Affix? Definition, Examples of Affixes in English Grammar

Affix definition: An affix is an word attachment to a root or stem that gives a word a different meaning.

What is an Affix?

What does affix mean? An affix literally “fix”es itself to a root word or a stem word. An affix changes the meaning of a word.

An affix may be attached to the beginning or the end of a root or stem word.

If an affix is attached to the beginning of a word, it is called a prefix. If an affix is attached to the end of a word, it is called a suffix.

Some root or stem words may have both an affix and a suffix or multiple affixes and suffixes in order to make new words and to change the meaning of the root or stem word.

Affix Examples:

  • stem word: like
  • with affix (prefix): unlike
  • stem word: like
  • with affix (suffix): likely

Different Types of Affixes

The two most common types of affixes are prefixes and suffixes.

What are Prefixes?

Affixes definition Prefixes are a type of affix. Prefixes are “pre” (before) “fix”ed (attached) to a root or stem to create a new word with a new meaning.

Prefixes themselves are not words. They must be attached to a root or a stem in order to create new words.

Here is a list of common prefixes and their use in sentences:

  • pre- (before)
    • The outcome was predetermined.
      • The outcome was determined before
  • mis- (wrong)
    • That word is misspelled.
      • The word is spelled wrong
  • non- (not)
    • The noise was nonstop.
      • The noise did not stop.
  • un- (not)
    • His work was unsatisfactory.
      • His work was not satisfactory
  • dis- (lack of, not)
    • They were displeased.
      • They were not pleased.
  • in- (not)
    • The work was incredible.
      • The work was not believable

NOTE: This example uses the prefix to attach to the root “cred” (believe). A suffix “-ible” (able to) is also attached to the root.

What are Suffixes?

Examples of affixes Suffixes are a type of affix. Suffixes are “suf” (under/after) “fix”ed (attached) to a root or stem to create a new word with a new meaning.

Suffixes themselves are not words. They must be attached to a root or a stem in order to create new words.

Here is a list of common suffixes and their use in sentences:

  • -ly (like)
    • She was wonderfully
      • She was striking like wonder
  • -able (able to)
    • The part is adaptable.
      • The part is able to adapt
  • -ible (able to)
    • The writing was incomprehensible.
      • The writing was not able to be comprehended.
  • -er (noun, someone who)- (not)
    • His work was unsatisfactory.
      • His work was not satisfactory
  • -ful (full of)
    • The flower is beautiful.
      • The flower is full of beauty
  • -less (without)
    • The old television was worthless.
      • The old television was without worth

Hyphenating Prefixes

Affixes examples You may have seen prefixes used before words that are hyphenated. This means that they are not part of the word but rather are hyphenated before the word they intend to modify.

Words take hyphenated prefixes when they are used to describe a word but do not make an actual word when attached.

For example:

  • anti-business NOT antibusiness
    • “anti-“ (against) connected to “business” does not create a real word. Therefore, to say that someone is against business you might say that he is anti-business
  • pre-World War II.
    • This example is similar to the first. Together these words do not make a word. Therefore, the prefix must be hyphenated.

NOTE: This is something that experienced writers can get away with because they are referring to concepts more than writing words themselves. Novice writers should shy away from incorporating hyphenated prefixes into their writing.

Hyphenating with Suffixes

What is affix Similarly, may have seen hyphenated suffixes used at the end of words. This means that they are not part of the word but rather are hyphenated after the word they intend to modify.

Hyphenated suffixes are very rare. Hyphenated suffixes are used to describe a word that does not make an actual word when attached.

Some concepts do take hyphenated suffixes.

  • -style
    • They purchased a Mediterranean-style home.
  • -elect
    • Joe Smith may become the President-elect.
  • -free
    • The eggs are hormone-free.
  • -based
    • His theory is biology-based.

Hyphenated suffixes are also used when the last letter of the word is same as first letter of the suffix.

  • graffiti-ism.

Summary: What are Affixes?

Define affix: The definition of affix is one or more letters or syllables attached to the beginning or end of a word to change the word’s meaning.

In summary,

  • An affix is an attachment to a stem or root word.
  • These include prefixes and suffixes.

There are some cases where a prefix or suffix might be hyphenated when they attach to a word but that is usually not the case.

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