Michael Quinion, the writer behind the wonderful World Wide Words, has updated his lesser-known Dictionary of Affixes. (Both are linked in this blog’s sidebar.) Quinion said he noticed the dictionary site ‘beginning to look very tired’, so he made various edits and updates.
Affixes, the building blocks of English, are integral to its morphology. Quinion calls them ‘those beginnings and endings that help form a large proportion of the words we use’, echoing the subtitle of his book Ologies and Isms: Word Beginnings and Endings (OUP, 2002), where much of the website’s material first appeared.
From the Introduction:
The aim throughout has been to provide many examples, on the principle that it is easier to absorb the subtleties of the way such forms are used when they are seen in action. A second aim has been to show links between words, both grammatically and thematically; where possible I have tried to give some background and explain how words have come to mean what they do. So far as possible, technical language has been avoided or explained.
Most people are familiar with prefixes and suffixes, but there are other types of affix, and they have their place in the Dictionary. Quinion has added a page of number affixes and related words, from atto- to zetta- and beyond, joining the helpful index of themes (biochemistry, culture & society, living world, human body, position, shapes, qualities, etc.).
But the kernel of the site is its A–Z of affixes of all types. The dictionary is a superb resource, concise and educational, on an aspect of language that’s easily overlooked in the busy trade of communication. It’s a semio–topia for logo–philes.
A search function would be useful, so that readers could search the dictionary for affixes related to a particular idea or sense. But there’s always the “site:” operator in search engines.
[Update: Michael Quinion got in touch to discuss this and has added a search function. It works very nicely.]