Ways of Creating New Words in English

Compounding – word-formative process where two or more free morphemes are combined into a single term.

Ex. blue + bird = bluebird.


Prefixing – word-formative process where an affix is attached to the front of a word.

Ex. un- + happy = unhappy.


Suffixing – word-formative process where an affix is attached to the end of a word.

Ex. build + -er = builder.


Infixing – word-formative process where an affix is inserted into a word at a morphophonemic boundary.

Ex. fan-freaking-tastic.


Alphebetism (Initialism) – word-formative process where a word is formed from the initials of a phrase and the word is pronounced as a sequence of letters.

Ex. FBI or Federal Bureau of Investigation. 


Acronym – word-formative process where the initial sounds of a phrase make a word.

Ex. scuba or self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. 


Clipping – word-formative process where a word is shorted  from a larger one.

Ex. net from Internet, cell from cellular.


Backformation – word-formative process where a word is derived by removing an affix to form a new word.

Ex. editor – -or = edit


Blending – word-formative process where blends are created by joining two or more words, at least one of which must be clipped.

Ex. smoke + fog = smog


Shifting (Functional shift) – word-formative process where a word form employed in one lexical category moves into another category.

Ex. noun e-mail (I’ll check my e-mail.) shifted to verb e-mail (E-mail me!).


Source: How English Works by Anne Curzan and Michael Adams, 3rd Edition, Pearson Education Inc.

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