Some people like to read the end of a book before jumping into its beginning.
Others enjoy taking bits and pieces of a movie and surmising its end while still in its midst. Understanding words is similar; we can study the word’s suffix, identify additional parts and thus ascertain much about its entire meaning.
A number of verbs end with -fy, meaning "to make." The $64,000 question sometimes is whether it is –ify or –efy.
There are only four common verbs that have the –efy ending: stupefy, liquefy, rarefy and putrefy. To recall these, I use a mnemonic device (slrp). You can make up any memorable set of letters that has meaning to you.
Nearly all other verbs that mean "to make" end with –ify. Just a few of these are: glorify, modify, dignify, rectify, amplify, clarify and vilify.
Another ending that sounds like “seed” has three possible spellings: -sede, -ceed and –cede. There is just one word with this sound that ends with the first spelling, supersede.
Its ending comes from the Latin sedere, meaning "to sit."
The second ending includes just three verbs: exceed, succeed and proceed ("esp" is memorable with these three letters). The final ending applies to eight words: concede, intercede, precede, recede, secede, accede, cede and antecede. These two endings both mean "to go."
The common ending "–cide" is one nearly all know means to kill. There are an almost endless number of combinations of roots with this suffix. Unfortunately, one we hear often is the killing of a person (homicide); some fairly well-known or evident are genocide, suicide, fratricide, sororicide, matricide and parenticide. Not so familiar perhaps are uroricide (one’s wife), senicide (an old man), parricide (a close relative) and mariticide (one’s husband). Many other roots provide us with words for killing specific insects and animals.
We should end on a more positive note. The suffix –ist indicates "one who." It combines well with the root phil- which means "love" (philanthropist, one who loves mankind and is its benefactor; philologist, one who loves words and language; philatelist, one who loves and collects stamps).
I think I’ll create my own simple word for one who loves: philist.
— Sandi Ekberg taught high school English in Medford for 30 years, with a special interest in vocabulary, grammar and usage. If you have grammar questions you would like answered, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org