What is a Suffix?
A suffix is a part of a word that is added onto the end of a root word and cannot stand alone. Many times in a word, you have a prefix, a root, and a suffix. The prefix, the root word, and the suffix all combine to make one word.
Now, sometimes you only have a root word. Sometimes you just have a prefix and a root word, and sometimes you just have a root word and a suffix. Sometimes you really just have a prefix and a suffix, but you’re never just going to find a prefix and you’re never just going to find a suffix. It has to be paired with something else. A suffix has a meaning of its own, so it changes or enhances the meaning of the root word that is added to it. It forms a new word with a little bit of a different meaning.
We have the word happy. We also have a suffix, which is -ness. The line here means that it’s a suffix. If the line was after the word, it would mean that it’s a prefix. Having the line right here means it’s a suffix, meaning the root word comes before it. Now, if we combine happy and -ness, we get the word “happiness”. We know what the root word means; we know what it means to be happy or joyful, but -ness means “the state of”. The suffix here changes the meaning of “happy” to mean “the state of being happy”.
So, you can say that person is experiencing happiness. You wouldn’t say they are experiencing happy, but you would say they’re experiencing happiness. Now, think about the word “geometric”. You may not even be familiar with this word, but you’re probably familiar with some of the parts of it. We have geo-, which is the prefix here, and that means “Earth”. Then we have “metri”, which means “the measure of” (it’s kind of similar to the word “meter”).
Then, we have the suffix -ic, which means “having to do with”. So, we can come up with a definition here. It means “having to do with measuring the earth”, because we have these definitions of the parts of the words, and we combine it into one approximate definition. Now, if you were to look up this word in the dictionary, you would find that the dictionary definition is relating to the branch of mathematics that has to do with measuring points, lines, and angles.
By using the definitions of each section of the word, we weren’t necessarily able to define the exact definition of this, but we were able to get a general idea. Now, think about the word “ophthalmology”. With this word here, we have the first part of it, which comes from the word “ophthalmos”, meaning “eye”. Then, we have the suffix, which is -ologies. You’ve probably heard it a lot: Zoology, ecology, geology, etc. -ology means “the study of”. Again, we can come up with an approximate definition. This must mean “the study of the eye”.
An ophthalmologist is someone who studies the eye. It’s a doctor who deals with problems and performs eye surgeries. If you just looked at “ophthalmology” and thought that it’s the study of the eye, you’re not getting an exact definition of what ophthalmology is, but you’re getting an idea that it’s the study of the eye and the problems with it. There’s definitely going to be a more specific definition of it, but you’re able to get a general idea of what it’s talking about.
Now, a couple of the suffixes we looked at here were -ness, -ic, and -ology. There are many more suffixes, so if you’re able to learn the meaning of some of the suffixes, then you can oftentimes just look at a word and figure out what it means. Here is another example: Say you saw the word “zoology”. You don’t necessarily know what this means. Perhaps you don’t know that -ologies means “the study of”, but you have heard of the word “geology”, and you know that means “the study of the earth”. You can look at this here and think, “OK, -ology must mean ‘the study of’, and I’ve heard of the word ‘zoo’, which is a place with a lot of animals. Zoology must mean the study of animals.” Think about words that are like this word.
Think about words that have the same suffix, and think about the definitions of that word. That way, you can figure out the definition of the word in question. Again, a suffix is a part of a word that is added onto the end of a root word and cannot stand alone.