Top Ten Suffixes (Word Endings) and Their Meanings

Top Ten Suffixes (Word Endings) and Their Meanings

Hey ESL cats!

Do you ever notice that some words in English have common endings? These are known as "suffixes."


For example:

  • The suffix "tion" can be found in nouns like: nation, ration, and location.
  • Another example is "ism", which helps end nouns like: formalism, socialism, and racism.
  • Then there is "able"—for adjectives like: countable, drinkable and dependable.

Today, I'm going to give you my ESL top ten favourite suffixes. I like these because they have specific meanings that give you clues about what the word is all about. With this knowledge, you can decode and more easily understand new words that you come across. Ready?





This one refers to ruling or government power. We see it in nouns like:


aristocracy: a government formed by those who stand out in education and sophistication

democracya government formed by the choice of a majority of the population

plutocracya government formed by the wealthy

technocracyrule by technocrats



(Hey, here’s another quick tip! Want to change any of these nouns into adjectives? All you have to do is replace "cracy"  with “cratic”: aristocratic, democratic, plutocratic.)




Phone means sound or hearing. Common examples are:

telephone, cellphone, smartphone.


I bet you already know these! They all use audio (sound) as their principle function.


Here’s some more:

microphone: a device that converts sounds to an electronic signal that can be amplified (Btw, the prefix "micro" means "very small”)

saxophone: a brass instrument that produces LOTS of sound!




To "cycle" means to go around in a circle. So, any word you see with this ending will have to do with circular action.


Here are some examples:


bicycle: The prefix "bi" means "two", and a bicycle has two wheels!

recycle: the process of converting products back to their original material resource, so that they may be re-used


An example would be the collection, melting and re-constitution of glass bottles, or aluminum cans.


Here's a cool video showing how somebody recycles aluminum cans:




This word ending refers to "surgical removal.” If you hear this word, you might be in for an unpleasant procedure.


Here are words that refer to specific body parts being removed by a surgical procedure:


hysterectomy: the removal of the womb

tonsillectomy: the removal of the tonsils

appendectomy: the removal of the appendix


I hope you never hear these words from your doctor!


-able or -ible

Able means can, or can be. This one is very useful as it can be attached to a large amount of words to form adjectives.


Here are some examples:


dependable: can be depended on: “The train system here is dependable: the trains run on time.”

legible: is clear and can be read: “He did not scribble. His handwriting was legible.”

uncountable: can’t be counted: “Money is a noun that is uncountable, so we don’t say a money.”

reversible: able to be reversed: “My new jacket can be worn inside-out. It is reversible.”



When you see "esque" it means it is "in the style" of the word it follows:


grotesque: an adjective for something that is ugly, disgusting or just plain gross! Example sentence: "He painted a grotesque portrait of a three eyed monster!"


picturesque: a style of art that focuses on sublime beauty. Often we say "picturesque" when we see something that is incredibly, naturally beautiful. For instance: a sunlit mountain or fields of green, covered with tiny flowers.


statuesque: describes something that has the characteristics or qualities of a statue: “The model has chiseled features which gave her a statuesque appearance.”



Words that end with "crat" refer to someone who has power. Similar to #10—"cracy", but in this case, it refers to a person, not a government.


bureaucrat: This is someone (usually a non-elected government official) who has been empowered to administer and execute the rules, policies and regulations of a government.


aristocrat: a fancy-pants person who has high-brow taste, high-education, high taste in art, etc.


theocrat: a person who rules in the name of a god



"Cide" refers to "kill" or the act of "killing." This suffix is often heard when someone or something is murdered:


homicide: the murder of a person

pesticide: a chemical agent for killing pests—usually bugs or insects

suicide: the act of killing yourself—taking your own life



When you see "gamy" think "marriage" or other types of "getting together". Words ending with “gamy” refer to a state of union between different individuals or groups:


monogamy: having only one spouse, the union of two people only

trigamy: having 3 spouses (the prefix "tri" means "three")

polygamy: agreement of relationship involving more than two people (the prefix “poly” means many)

# 1

-phobia or -phobic

The suffix "phobia" refers to the overwhelming fear of something.

(Actually, there’s a site with 530 different recognized phobias if you’re interested go to It even includes “alektorophobia—fear of chickens”.)

Wow, there are a lot of things we can be can afraid of!


In the meantime, here’s a shorter list:


xenophobia: a deep fear and suspicion of others who are foreign. This can lead to many terrible attitudes, opinions and behaviours toward immigrants and tourists.


homophobia: a negative opinion, fear or attitude toward homosexuals


agoraphobia: a fear of leaving one’s home


Btw, this suffix is a lot of fun because you can use it it to make up your own words. Let’s say your friend is afraid of dancing, you can say the person has a strong case of “danceaphobia.”


Create your own made-up words with suffixes and put them in the comments below!


Here’s another super hack. Make nouns that describe intense fears into adjectives by using the suffix -phobic.


Examples: xenophobic, homophobic, agoraphobic, alektorophobic.


To talk about the person who suffers from the diagnosis, use the suffix “-phobe”.


Examples: xenophobe, homophobe, agoraphobe.


And, our new made-up example: “danceaphobe.” As in: “He’s such a danceaphobe. There’s no way he’ll get on the dance floor!”


Well, now you know a little bit more about how important suffixes, or “word endings”, can be. There are a lot more, so keep your eyes peeled! (Btw, who knows what “keep your eyes peeled” means?) Scroll down and I’ll tell you in the comments below.



And go ahead and leave your own example of a word that has a suffix that tells us something about the meaning—unless you have commentphobia!  winky face  Lol!


Good luck with suffixes!

heartLuv Nessa 

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