Derivative Morphemes: Types And Their Characteristics, Examples

The derivative morphemes are those particles that are added to a word root or lexeme to form derived words. A morpheme is the smallest unit of language with its own meaning. It cannot be divided into smaller lexical (with semantic content) or grammatical (with syntactic content) meaning units.

In the case of derivative morphemes, these are combined to generate complex words. These types of words have a series of components known as roots and affixes.

The root is the basic (constant) part of the signifier of the word. Affixes are the elements that are attached to roots, modifying their meaning by forming new terms.

The process of mixing lexemes or roots with derivative morphemes is known as derivation. For example, the derivations hope, hope, hopelessness and hopeless have as a common element “hope”, which is the root. Meanwhile, the rest of the components of the word (anza, des, ado), represent the derivative morphemes.

It is important to note that derivative morphemes do not indicate gender, number, person, time or mode of the new words created. They limit themselves to intervening in the derivation and, in many cases, changing the grammatical category of the new terms.

Its process is the most productive in the Spanish language because it translates into expanding vocabulary.

Types and their characteristics


Prefixes are those elements with a semantic value that precede the root or another prefix. The derivative process of creating new words using this type of morpheme is known as prefixation. In Spanish, these come from Latin and Greek.

Prefixes can be negative, locative, temporal, quantitative, and intensifying. The negatives indicate deprivation or annoyance, the locative spatial relation as distance and the temporal relation temporal as posteriority. Meanwhile, the quantitative ones express the idea of ​​quantity or size and the intensifiers, excess or pre-eminence.

There are many prefixes that are part of the language. Among other derivative morphemes of this class, we can mention: a (negation), bi (two), circum (around), against (opposition), infra (below), inter (between), pre (previous) and pro ( in front).

On the other hand, there are some Latin prefixes in Spanish that are no longer considered as such. The reason for this is that they have lost their ability to freely combine with other words. They can be mentioned within this group: abs (separation), ad (closeness), es (outside or deprivation) and / or (annoyance).


  • Ante (before): antecedent, anterior, forearm, anterior.
  • Anti (against): unethical, unsightly, contraception.
  • Auto (auto): self-service, self-control, automobile.
  • Bi (two): bicameral, bilateral, bi-monthly, bilingual.
  • Cent (hundred): centimeter, centenary.
  • Against (against): counterproposal, counterweight, time trial, counter.
  • With or com (with): concept, set, compassion.
  • Des (undo, decrease): unfold, reverse, undo, discover.
  • Between (between): intertwine, entertain, ajar.
  • Former (foreign): ex-combatant, exporter, ex-spouse.
  • Hyper: hypercaloric, hypertensive, hyperactive.
  • Homo (equal): homograph, homosexual, homogeneous.
  • Im, in (opposite): inescapable, essential, indestructible
  • Inter (between, between): interpretation, interrupt, interpose.
  • Mal (bad): mistreat, malpensado (malicious), malvivir (live badly).
  • Mono (one): monotonous, skateboard, monorail.
  • Para (together, with, para): paramedic, paramilitary, paranormal.
  • Poly (many): polyglot, multipurpose, polygamy.
  • Pre (before): planned, pre-assembled, prehistoric.
  • Pro (in favor of): propose, prohombre.
  • Re (again, with intensity): retry, rebirth, re-release.
  • Semi (medium): crescent, demigod, semi-solid.
  • Pseudo (false): pseudoscience, pseudoscientist.
  • Over (excessive, extraordinary): cope, overcome, overexcite.
  • Sub (below): underground, underworld, subnourish.
  • Super (top): superconducting, superlative, superfuel.
  • Tele (remote): telekinesis, telecontrol, telemetry.
  • Uni (one): unicameral, unipolar, univalent.


Suffixes are affixes that are placed after the root or another suffix. They can create new words by combining grammatical categories (nouns, verbs, and adjectives). Each of these categories has its own group of suffixes to combine.

Suffixes can in turn be aspectual and appreciative. Aspectuals are divided into nominals (nouns), adjectives (adjectives) and verbs (verbs).

While the appreciatives can be diminutive (appreciation or sympathy), augmentatives (excess, mockery), derogatory (repulsion, mockery) and superlatives (maximum intensity).

Thus, for example, among the suffixes that can be used to form adjectives are: bundo (intensity), ble (capacity) and al (belonging or relative). Similarly, nouns can be created using the suffixes aje (action or place), tion (action) and anza (action, effect or position).


  • Al (belonging, relationship): partial, genital, mental, cerebral.
  • Ado-ido (passive, suffering): destroyed, built, forgetful.
  • Aryan (place, agent): sanctuary, herbalist, businessman, librarian.  
  • Phobia (fear of): claustrophobia, arachnophobia.
  • Gram (written): cardiogram, encephalogram, numbergram.
  • Ism (system, doctrine): Islamism, journalism, conformism.
  • Itis (irritation, inflammation): otitis, peritonitis, sinusitis.
  • Ico-ica (related to science): trigonometric, logical.
  • Sis (action, operation, generalization): acidosis, nucleosis, thrombosis.
  • Ma (effect, result): edema, theorem.
  • Ology (study of): ophthalmology, physiology, bacteriology.
  • Ina (diminutives): chiquilina.
  • Type (printed): logo,
  • Tomía (cut): lobotomy, mastectomy.
  • Ucho (derogatory): hotelucho, rag.


Interfixes are segments located or located between the root and the suffix. For example, the word dust is made up of polv (root) -ar (interfix) -eda (suffix).

Now, not every morpheme located between a root and a suffix is ​​necessarily an interfix. There are times when it is another suffix.

The practice way to identify an interfix is ​​to remove the final morpheme from the word. If in doing so the remaining one has an idiomatic meaning, then it is an interfix.

Otherwise, it is then another suffix. In Spanish, the interfixes do not have much semantic content and can sometimes also be located between the root and its prefix.


In the case of interfixes these can be found in words like cursed (curs-il-ada). In this case,il can be considered an interfix because the word cursil. Cursilada comes from corny, not cursile. Therefore, the remaining –ada – is a derivative morpheme (transform- transform).

Note the contrast with the word stab (puñ-al-ada). In Spanish, there is the word puñal, which is formed with the rootfist and the morpheme tol (culture-cultural). Thus, in this case we have two morphemes in a row doing the derivative work (to the and ada).


They are affixes that surround the root. They are known as discontinuous because they are combinations of prefixes and suffixes that “wrap” the root. Circums are very particular cases of affixes. It occurs very rarely in most of the world’s languages.


In the Spanish language, there are cases that follow circumfixation processes. An example of this is found in the French word. This is generally composed of a-root-ar, the root being the French word. This structure is proof of the passage from French to French through circumfixes.

The same case occurs in the des-root-ar structures to generate the term husking. Similarly, you can see this process in the structurein-lexema-ar it is the basis for the generation by circumfixes of the word get dirty.


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