What are Prefixes and Suffixes? Definition, Examples

Prefix definition: an affix attached to the beginning of a word to modify its meaning.

Suffix definition: a particle attached to the end of a word to modify its meaning or change it into a different word class.

What is the Difference Between Prefixes and Suffixes?

In the English language, we often place prefixes and suffixes at the beginning and end, respectively, of a word in order to modify it.

The original word does have meaning in itself, but by adding a prefix or suffix to it, we change the word.

the suffix meansWhat is a prefix? Prefixes are placed at the beginning of a word in order to alter its meaning.

  • Janet resubmitted her application after she was initially denied a loan.

Resubmitted includes the prefix re which means again.

What is a suffix? Suffixes are placed at the end of a word in order to alter its meaning or change the classification of the word.

  • We work hard in order to ensure our children’s happiness.

Happiness includes the state of being suffix ness. By adding the suffix, we have changed our word from an adjective to a noun in order for it to fit grammatically in our sentence.

What are Prefixes?

the prefix meansWhat does prefix mean? A prefix can be a letter or group of letters that may be added to the beginning of a word in order to modify its meaning.

Prefix Examples:

  • a-, an- = without; amoral, anemic
  • ante- = before; antecedent
  • co- = with; co-worker
  • de- = off, remove; de-ice
  • ex =out of, former; ex-boyfriend
  • il = not; illegal
  • inter = between; intergalactic
  • post = after; postpone
  • super = above; supersede
  • un = not; unnatural

Let’s try using a prefix in a sentence.

  • Craig was dissatisfied with the customer service he received at the store.
    • Prefix = dis = negative

When to Hyphenate Prefixes

what is the meaning of suffixesDo you hyphenate prefixes? At times, you will want to add a hyphen in between your prefix and word.

Proper nouns: when adding a prefix to a proper noun, you must add a hyphen:

  • Not liking apple pie may be seen as un-American.

Same vowel: If the last letter of your prefix is the same as the first letter in the word, you need to add a hyphen:

  • In order to be allowed re-entry to the amusement park, patrons must obtain a stamped ticket.

Special prefixes: Always use a hyphen when you use ex- and self-.

  • Lisa was self-conscious about her body after having a baby.
  • The ex-student body president trained the current officer on how to organize prom.

Clarification: Use a hyphen when a word may cause confusion or look odd in the sentence.

  • The mother reminder the children to re-cover the sandbox after they were done playing.

We need the hyphen, so that readers don’t confuse re-cover with the word recover, which means to reinstate health or regain a lost possession.

What are Suffixes?

list of prefixes in englishWhat does suffix mean? Suffixes are used at the end of words in order to change the word to fit grammatically within your sentence.

Suffix Examples:

  • –al = having characteristics of; remedial, denial
  • –ed = past-tense verbs; traveled, talked
  • –en = made of, consisting of; wooden, golden
  • –er, -est = comparative; stronger, strongest
  • –tion, -ion = state of being, condition; completion, relation
  • –ity = quality of; humility, enormity
  • –less = without; hopeless, homeless
  • –ly = characteristic of; brotherly, lovely
  • –s, -es = more than one; apples, trenches

Let’s look at an example of a suffix used in a sentence:

  • In government class, students will research the current election.
    • Suffix = ion = act, process

When to Hyphenate Suffixes

what is prefix what is suffix Do you hyphenate suffixes? We rarely hyphenate suffixes, but here are some instances in which you may add one.

Cumbersome words: an optional hyphen can be used when a word seems lengthy without one.

  • community-wide

Exception words: -like, -type, -elect,

  • scholarly-like

When last letter is same as first letter:

  • graffiti-ism, past-tense


Define prefix: the definition of prefix is an element placed at the beginning of a word to alter or qualify its meaning.

Define suffix: the definition of suffix is a particle placed at the end of a word to alter its meaning or adjust its grammatical sense.

In summary,

  • Prefixes and suffixes are added to words to change them.
  • Prefixes are added to change the meaning of the root word.
  • Suffixes are added so that the word will make grammatical sense in a sentence.

Here are a couple of final examples of how we use prefixes and suffixes.

  • Many science fiction books include an intergalactic war.
    • Prefix = inter = between
  • The employee rushed to his car after work on Friday.
    • Suffix = ed = past-tense verb