The Spanish Language Blog

Are you learning Spanish and need to differentiate prefixes and suffixes? DonQuijote Spanish school gives you the keys you need to learn Spanish prefixes and suffixes with several examples.

Read this article in Spanish here.

What are Spanish prefixes and suffixes?

Spanish prefixes and suffixes are affix elements that lack autonomy and need a lexical base to which they contribute a new meaning. These elements give rise to new words, so the Spanish prefixes and suffixes are not words as such.

The process of word formation that suffixes and prefixes create in Spanish is called derivación (stemming). Spanish suffixes are added behind the word, while Spanish prefixes are added in front.

Neither Spanish prefixes nor suffixes can be used by themselves because their meaning depends on the word they modify. Therefore, these morphemes are autonomous and have no meaning.

In addition, suffixes and prefixes are widely used in many languages, not only in Spanish since they make it possible to create new words by adding a morpheme before or after the root.

Spanish prefixes

Spanish prefixes are added before the word they are going to modify. In addition, prefixation changes the meaning of the words, but does not modify the grammatical category. 

These are some of the most common Spanish prefixes and their meanings:

  • A-: means negation or lack of something. Example: apolítico (apolitical), amorfo (amorphous).
  • Anti-: indicates opposition or contradiction. Example: antinatural (unnatural), antibiótico (antibiotic).
  • Auto-: refers to something of one's own, to oneself or by oneself. Example: automóvil (automobile), autodidacta (self-taught), automata (automaton).
  • Bi-: means double or two. Example: bilateral, bidireccional, bisexual, bipolar.
  • Co-: shows union or participation. Example: cooperar (cooperate), cofundador (co-founder).
  • De-, des-, di-, dis-: means negation, excess, out of, opposition or difficulty. Example: despeinar (unkempt), discordia (discord), desordenar (disorder), discapacidad (disability), deshacer (undo).
  • Extra-: means from outside or too much. Example: extraterrestre (extraterrestrial), extraofficial (unofficial).
  • Geo-: pertaining or relating to the earth. Example: geografía (geography), geolocalizar (geolocate).
  • Hemi-: means half. Example: hemisferio (hemisphere), hemiciclo (hemicycle).
  • Hypo-: below the expected or meager. Example: hipotermia (hypothermia), hipócrita (hypocrite).
  • I, in-, im-: signals negation or inversion of what the root word expresses. Example: impostor, imposible, indecisión, inmoral, ilegible (unreadable), insoportable (unbearable).
  • Infra-: means below or inferior to. Example: infraestructura (infrastructure), infravalorado (undervalued), inframundo (underworld).
  • Intra-: points inward or inside something. Example: Intramuros, intranet, intramuscular.
  • Kilo-: means a thousand times. Example: kilogramo (kilogram), kilómetro (kilometer), kilovatio (kilowatt).
  • Mega-: means very large, amplified or a million times. Examples: megáfono (megaphone), megavoltio (megavolt).
  • Micro-: points to something very small or small. Example: microrrelato (microstory), microscópico (microscopic).
  • Mini-: means small. Example: minifalda (miniskirt), minimalista (minimalist), minibús.
  • Multi-: means many or multiple. Example: multicolor, multimillonario, multicultural.
  • Post-, pos-: means behind or after. Examples: posdata (PS), posguerra (post-war), postoperatorio (post-surgery).
  • Pre-: means before. Example: prehistoria (prehistory), predisponer (predispose), prejuicio (prejudice).
  • Pro-: signals negation, continuity or before. Example: prólogo (prologue), proseguir (to continue), procrastinar (procrastinate).
  • Re-: signals repetition or intensification. Examples: revisar (revise), renombrar (rename), rehacer (redo), recargar (reload).
  • Semi-: signals half of something. Example: semicírculo (semicircle), semiabierto (semi-open), semiautomático (semiautomatic).
  • Sin-: means lack or deprivation of something; similarity or union. Example: sinónimo (synonym), sinrazón (unreasonable), sinsabor (tasteless).
  • Sobre-: signifies superimposition, addition, intensification, or repetition. Example: sobrepasar (surpass), sobrevalorado (overvalue), sobreentender (overunderstand).
  • Super-: points to excellence or above something. Example: superdotado (gifted), supermercado (supermarket), superpoderes (superpowers).
  • Ultra-: points beyond or extremely. Example: ultratumba (beyond the grave), ultrasonido (ultrasound), ultraprocesado (ultra-processed).

Spanish suffixes

Suffixes in Spanish are added after the word they are going to modify. Also, suffixation adds nuances of meaning and sometimes changes the class to which the original word belongs.

Here are some examples and their meanings of Spanish suffixes:

  • -áceo: forms adjectives that indicate similarity or belonging. Example: grisácea (greyish), opiáceo (opiate), rosáceo (rose-colored).
  • -al: forms nouns meaning abundance and, when forming adjectives, they indicate relationship or belonging. Example: cultural, frutal (fruity), arenal (sandy), otoñal (autumnal).
  • -ante, -ente: form adjectives from verbs. Example: agobiante (overwhelming), dependiente (dependent), crujiente (crunchy).
  • -azo: signals augmentative value and expresses affection or a blow given. Example: mazazo, codazo (elbow), portazo.
  • -bilidad, -dad, -edad, -idad: all these Spanish suffixes form abstract nouns that derive from adjectives. Examples: estabilidad (stability), soledad (loneliness), maldad (evil), sociedad (society).
  • -ción: points to the action of. Example: importación (import), certificación (certification), donación (donation).
  • -dor: indicates agent, attribute, office, or instrument. Examples: aterrador (terrifying), entrenador (trainer), calculador (calculating).
  • -eda: forms collective nouns and indicates abundance. Examples: arboleda (grove), viñedo (vineyard), alameda (poplar grove), rosaleda (rose garden).
  • -filia, -filo: means liking, tendency or sympathy for something or someone. Example: bibliofilia (bibliophilic), cinéfilo (cinephile).
  • -isimo: indicates superlative degree. Example: buenísimo, tardísimo, hermosísimo.
  • -ismo: alludes to a political doctrine, religion, movement or current; although it can also mean attitude, tendency, or sports activities. Example: atletismo (athletics), socialismo (socialism), alpinismo (mountaineering), comunismo (communism).
  • -itis: indicates inflammation. Examples: gastritis, otitis, faringitis (pharyngitis).
  • -ito, -ita: functions as a diminutive. Example: calentito, fresquito, suavecito, amiguita, botellita.
  • -logía: means treatise, study, or science. Example: simbología (symbology), geología (geology), psicología (psychology), sociología (sociology).
  • -miento: form nouns from verbs and mean action and effect. Example: recibimiento (reception), conocimiento (knowledge), entretenimiento (entertainment).
  • -ón: indicates augmentative, intense, or derogatory value; it also designates action or effect of something sudden. Examples: juguetón, comilón, almohadón, caserón.
  • -oso, -osa: indicates abundance of what it expresses. Example: generoso (generous), perezoso (lazy), golosa (sweet-toothed), miedosa (fearful), revoltoso (unruly), estudiosa (studious).
  • -torio: means place and detonates relation with what the root expresses. Example: escritorio (desk), consultorio (office), laboratorio (lab), reivindicatorio (vindicatory).
  • -triz: means agent and forms words in feminine genre. Examples: emperatriz (empress), actriz (actress), matriz (womb), institutriz (governess).

It must be considered that, in Spanish, especially in the suffixes, the gender can vary, in masculine and feminine. For example, -isimo can result in guapísimo or guapísima. It is the same suffix, but with a different gender; and the same happens with -on or -dor.

There are many more prefixes and suffixes in Spanish, but the above list includes some of the most common and used ones. Did you know any of them? Which one surprised you the most?

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