Word Parts


The root word is the basic word which prefixes and suffixes are affixed to.


The prefix is the part of a word which comes before the root word.


The suffix is the part of a word which comes after the root word.

Here is an example of a root word with prefixes and suffixes added to it to change its meaning:

Root word: Equal

Equal is a root word which can have both prefixes and suffixes affixed to it.

Prefix: Un-

The prefix “un-“ means “not” or “opposite.” If something is “unequal,” it is not equal.

Suffix: -Ity

The suffix “-ity” means “the state or condition of.” If two things are equal, they are in a state of “equality.”


Importance of Words

Words are undeniably important. They are so important that we tend to take them for granted, as once we’ve begun to use them, we cannot imagine life without them. The thoughts within the privacy of your head are experienced in words; culture in the form of stories, songs, and histories is passed down in words; and the connections we forge with family members and friends are created through words.


Common Endings

There are many suffixes commonly used with nouns, verbs, and adjectives alike. Here are a few examples of common endings of words:

Common Noun Endings

-er / -or

The suffix –er or –or before a noun indicates “one who does something.” Often, these suffixes can be added to root words for actions in order to refer to the person who completes these actions. Here are a few examples:


A “runner” is “one who runs.” The root word “run” (verb) transforms into a person, a “runner.”


An “orator” is “one who orates,” meaning one who makes speeches.

-tion / -sion

Whereas suffixes –er and –or create people who complete actions, the suffixes –tion and –sion form noun forms of actions. Here are a few examples:


“Completion” is formed from the root word “complete,” a verb. When the suffix “-tion” is added, the verb becomes a noun.


Like “completion,” “persuasion” is formed from a verbal root word, “persuade.” When the suffix “-sion” is added, the verb takes on its noun form.


The suffix –ing is added to an action or process in order to create a gerund. A gerund is a word created from a verb which functions as a noun. Here are a few examples of gerunds:

Dancing is fun.

Singing is my favorite pastime.

We like playing.


The suffix –ess is feminizing. Whereas many verbs begin in a male form, adding –ess creates the female alternative. Here are a few examples:

Waiter à Waitress

Lion à Lioness

Actor à Actress

Suffixes can be used to create nouns from verb roots and feminine forms of male nouns.


Common Verb Endings

-ize / ise

The suffixes –ize and –ise have multiple meanings including “cause,” “treat,” and “become.” Here are a few examples:

Popularize: to cause something to become “popular”

Hospitalize: to treat in a “hospital”

Mythicize: to create a “myth”


This verb ending is the most common verb ending for the regular past tense. Here are a few examples of present to past tense:

Bathe à Bathed

Practice à Practiced

Fantasize à Fantasized



Common Adjective Endings

-ious / -ous

The adjective ending –ious and –ous mean “full of” or “characterized by.” Here are a few examples:

Courageous: full of courage

Dangerous: characterized by danger

Anxious: full of anxiety


As it sounds, -ful, too, is a suffix describing something which is “full of” a certain characteristic. Here are a few examples:

Joyful: full of joy

Meaningful: full of meaning

Flavorful: full of flavor

-able / ible

As they sound, the suffixes –able and –ible describe something which is “able” to do something with special skills or opportunities. Here are a few examples of words using –able and –ible:

Audible: able to be heard

Noticeable: able to be noticed

Respectable: able to be respected

Understanding the meaning of certain suffixes allows you to understand the meaning of certain words. These common word endings are useful in deriving definitions from words based on the meanings of their suffixes.



Words may seem simple, but then they divide into roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Words are also classified into nouns, verbs, and other parts of speech. Defining and explaining the building blocks of our language can seem difficult to the untrained eye, but training in recognizing parts of speech and common forms of words will make you an expert in no time.