Formation of Words

Formation of Words

The word-formation process is the process by which new words are produced either by modification of existing words, adding prefixes & Suffixes, Conversion or Compounding.
Types of Word Formation :
The formation of words is classified into five types based on how the process of formation is carried out. They are:
» adding prefixes
» adding suffixes
» Forming compound words
» Converting from one word class to another
» Cutting or clipping

Adding Prefixes

The term ‘prefix’ refers to one or more alphabets added to the stem of a word, mostly to make it negative. The most commonly used prefixes include im, in, ir, il, re, em, en, de, un, dis, mis, pre, non, mini, semi, viceetc.

Prefix Words
im impolite, impotent, impure, immaterial
in indiscipline, incompetent
ir irregular, irrelevant
im immoral
il illogical, illegal, illiterate
re recast, refund, reclaim
em empower, embody, embark
en encourage, enrich, enlist
de deform, defame, demoralise
un unfortunate, untie, unexpected
dis disappear, dislike, discourage
mis miscarriage, mistrust, mismanage
pre premature, prepaid, prefix
non non-cooperation, non-refundable, nonsense
mini mini-computer, mini-car, miniskirt
semi semi-modal, semicircle, semicolon
vice vice captain vice chairman vice-president

Adding Suffixes

A suffix is a short syllable added at the end of a base word. The addition of suffixes usually changes the word class of the particular word. The most common suffixes include ‘-ment’, ‘-ness’, ‘-ity’, ‘-ous’, ‘-tion’, ‘-sion’, ‘-al’, ‘-able’, ‘-ible’, ‘-ive’, ‘-ly’, ‘-ate’, ‘-er’, ‘-or’, etc.

Prefix Words
-ed gifted, ruined, talented
-ist socialist, artist, rightist
-img painting, gardening, watering
-en bolden, hidden, maiden
-ish selfish, boyish, womanish
-ful joyful, truthful, fearful, colourful, powerful, cheerful
-ly godly, manly, suddenly
-ship friendship, membership, hardship
-ness kindness, fastness, goodness
-less artless, tasteless


The process of conversion focuses solely on changing the word class of the particular word. If you have noticed, you would have seen how some nouns are used to perform the role of a verb or an adjective acting like a noun just by the addition of another word or slightly altering the spelling of the actual word.

Can you text her? (verb from noun text, meaning to send a text-message)
They are always jetting somewhere. (verb from noun jet)
OK, so the meeting’s on Tuesday. That’s a definite. (noun from adjective)
All companies have their ups and downs. (nouns from prepositions)

Forming Compound Words

Compound words are formed by combining one part of speech with another to form a specific word class. There are many ways in which compound words are formed. Verbs are combined with adjectives to form compound verbs, a present participle is combined with a noun to form a compound noun, two nouns are combined to form a compound noun, an adjective and a noun are combined to form a compound noun, an adverb is combined with a noun to form a compound noun, an adjective is combined with a past participle to form a compound adjective and so on. Take a look at the following examples and go through the articles on compound nouns, compound words and compound adjectives to understand how they work.

Over (adverb) + load (noun) Overload
White (adjective) + wash (verb) Whitewash
Black (adjective) + board (noun ) Blackboard
Cup (noun) + board (noun) Cupboard
Short (adjective) + hand (noun) Shorthand
Swimming (present participle) + pool (noun) Swimming pool
Three (adjective) + legged (past participle) Three-legged
Break (verb) + Down (preposition) Breakdown
Up (preposition) + town (noun) Uptown
Copy (verb) + writer (noun) Copywriter
Sun (noun) + rise (verb) Sunrise
Count (verb) + down (preposition) Countdown
Flash (verb) + mob (noun) Flash mob
Master (noun) + piece (noun) Masterpiece
Round (adjective) + table (noun) Round-table

Cutting or clipping

Cutting or clipping words are formed by cutting some part of word.
Examples of Word Formation by Cutting or clipping

Telephone Phone
Teenagers Teens
Picture with movement Movie