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Week 3: Adding Suffixes (1)


This week, let’s look at how to add a few common suffixes to a word. Just a reminder- the reference dictionary I am using is Merriam Webster’s Third International Dictionary.


A. Adding the suffix –ful (pronounced \fəl\ or \fu̇l\):


As an adjective suffix, -ful means full of, characterized by, having the qualities of.

As a noun suffix, -ful means number or quantity that fills.


1. Notice that there is only one ‘l’ at the end of this suffix.

Overfull is the only word that I came across that has two ‘l’s as the main entry.

Brimful,handful, skyful, and topful have two ‘l’s’ as a variant spelling; in my experience, variant spellings have not been asked in a spelling bee. I would suggest sticking to the main entries, if you decide you want to learn words that have variant spellings.

There are also a few hyphenated words that are spelled with two ‘l’s: bank-full, bung-full, chock-full, cram-full, and hawse-full. In my experience, hyphenated words have not been asked in a spelling bee.


2. If the base word ends in a consonant + y, then change

the –y to an –i before adding the suffix –ful.

beauty + -ful = beautiful            bounty + -ful = bountiful

duty + -ful = dutiful             fancy +-ful = fanciful

mercy + -ful = merciful        pity + -ful =pitiful

bellyful is an exception to this rule.


3. If the base word ends in a vowel + y, then just add the suffix –ful.

joy + -ful = joyful           dismay + -ful = dismayful

play + -ful = playful       toy + -ful = toyful



4. For most other words just add –ful to the base word.

Some examples are: artful, baleful, baneful,

doubtful, faithful, guileful, mugful, zestful.


To summarize: When a word ends in a consonant + y, the y changes to i when adding the suffix –ful. For other words, the base word does not change when adding the suffix –ful.


B.               Adding the suffix –ness(pronounced \nə̇s\):


-ness is a noun suffix meaning : state, condition, quality or degree.


1. For most words that do not end in a –y, and for a single syllable word that ends in -y just add the suffix –ness:

abstemious + -ness = abstemiousness

blissful + -ness = blissfulness

capricious + -ness = capriciousness

sagacious + -ness = sagaciousness


coy + -ness = coyness         dry + -ness = dryness

fly + -ness = flyness             shy + -ness = shyness  

wry + -ness = wryness


even + -ness = evenness       mean + -ness = meanness

sudden + -ness = suddenness


2. For most words ending in -y that have more than one syllable, change the –y to an - i before adding the suffix


airy + -ness = airiness         baggy + -ness = bagginess

crafty + -ness = craftiness     dirty + -ness = dirtiness

dilatory + -ness = dilatoriness

extraordinary + -ness = extraordinariness

fidgety + -ness = fidgetiness          wispy + -ness = wispiness

grouchy + -ness = grouchiness


Some exceptions:

·      busyness (do not confuse with business), cityness, manyness,uppityness.

·      For words that end in –ay just add –ness: awayness,

everydayness, yesterdayness.

·      Be careful when adding –ness to words ending in


Some remain the same in the main entry: e.g. cageyness, homeyness.

Some drop the e and change the y to an i before adding the suffix –ness in the main entry : clayiness, dopiness.


To summarize:

If a word ending in –y has more than one syllable and does not end in ay, then change the y to an i before adding the suffix –ness. Be careful with the words ending in –ey. 

For other words the base word will remain unchanged when adding the suffix –ness.


C.               Adding the suffix –ly (pronounced \lē\):


-ly as an adjective suffix means 1. like in appearance, manner, or nature e.g. brotherly, regally, womanly.

2. expressing regular recurrence e.g. hourly, yearly, daily.


-ly also changes a word to an adverb in which case it means in a specified manner as in slowly,  fiercely,quietly.


1. Most words that do not end in a –y will not change when adding the suffix –ly: absentmindedly, braggingly,

callously,deviously, malignantly, vigorously, zealously.

Consequently if a base word ends in –l- , there will be two ‘l’s when the suffix –ly:

abysmally, balefully, casually, drolly, fatally, jovially,

kaleidoscopically, manually, pitifully, quizically.

Note that many words where –lly appears are words that have the suffix –ful, -al, -ical (a combination of the suffixes –ic + -al) at the end already.

An exception is the word brittlely(main entry), but it has a variant spelling brittly.


2. For words ending in a consonant and –y that have more than one syllable,  you will usually change the –y to –i before adding the suffix –ly:


angry + -ly = angrily             chatty + -ly = chattily

dainty + -ly = daintily                 frisky + -ly = friskily

glassy + -ly = glassily          haughty + -ly = haughtily

extemporary + -ly = extemporarily


3. For words ending in a consonant and –le, usually the –e is dropped before adding the suffix –ly.


feeble + ly = feebly                   gentle + ly = gently simple+ ly = simply                       triple + ly = triply


Note that this includes words ending in –ible and –able which will change to –ibly and –ably: abominably, audibly, believably,charitably,credibly,miserably, ostensibly,respectably, visibly.


Some exceptions: unshyly and words ending in –phlyly,

-dactyly, and styly.

Note that dactyl- comes from dactylos(Greek) meaning finger e.g. arachnodactyly, brachydactyly;

-styly can come from the corresponding word ending in

–stylic meaning being or having a certain type of connection of the jaw and skull, or –styly meaning condition of having such or so many styles;

e.g. autostyly, tristyly; -phlyly comes from a combination of phyl-(meaning tribe, race or phylum) with –y

e.g. homophyly.

      There are very few exceptions.


4. A few other words ending in –e drop the –e when adding –ly e.g. duly,truly.


Did you notice a general rule  that might apply to adding a suffix to a word that ends in a consant + y?

Remember, as a speller you want to watch out for exceptions to rules as you go through your word lists.



Next week, I will be going over some more suffix rules.