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More Noun Suffixes: Names for People

written by: Heather Marie Kosur • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 2/14/2012

Suffixes are affixes that attach to the ends of words to create new words. This article explains how to form names for people by adding the noun suffixes -ist, -ian, -ess, and -ar /-er/-eur/-ier/-or/-ur to the base forms of nouns. Also included is a printable sheet of common names for people.

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    Noun Suffixes

    Suffixes are affixes that attach to the ends of the base forms of words to create new words or new forms of words. Suffixation is a type of English derivation that creates new words. In addition to the agent suffixes -er, -or, and -ar, other derivational suffixes also result in the creation of agent nouns. Derivation suffixes create new Agent nouns are nouns that identify the person performing an action or, in other words, are names for people. The following suffixes are more noun suffixes that create names for people:

    • -ist – person
    • -ian – of or belonging to
    • -ess – denoting female persons
    • -ar /-er/-eur/-ier/-or/-ur – agent

    For example, affixing -ist to the base form of the noun art results in the new noun artist, meaning someone who creates art, and affixing -ian to the base form of the noun library results in the new noun librarian, meaning someone who works in a library.

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    Some English Noun Suffixes

    The following four lists provide examples of some common names for people in English created through suffixation organized by suffix. Note that unlike the -er, -or, and -ar agent suffixes that attach to verbs, the -ist, -ian, -ess, and -ar /-er/-eur/-ier/-or/-ur suffixes primarily attach to other nouns.

    -ist

    • art – artist
    • chemistry – chemist
    • dentistry – dentist
    • guitar – guitarist
    • journal – journalist
    • linguistics – linguist
    • lobby – lobbyist
    • novel – novelist
    • nutrition – nutritionist
    • orthodontia – orthodontist
    • optometry – optometrist
    • pharmacy – pharmacist
    • philanthropy – philanthropist
    • piano – pianist
    • psychiatry – psychiatrist
    • psychology – psychologist
    • racism – racist
    • reception – receptionist
    • science – scientist
    • therapy – therapist

    -ian

    • beauty – beautician
    • comedy – comedian
    • electricity – electrician
    • grammar – grammarian
    • guard – guardian
    • history – historian
    • library – librarian
    • magic – magician
    • mathematics – mathematician
    • music – musician
    • obstetrics – obstetrician
    • pediatrics – pediatrician
    • physic – physician
    • politics – politician
    • rhetoric – rhetorician
    • statistics – statistician
    • surgery – surgeon*
    • technical – technician
    • vegetable – vegetarian
    • veterinary – veterinarian

    *The suffix for surgeon is spelled -eon but pronounced the same as the -ian suffix.

    -ess

    • actor – actress
    • adulterer – adulteress
    • author – authoress
    • duke – duchess
    • god – goddess
    • launderer – laundress
    • lion – lioness
    • master – mistress
    • poet – poetess
    • priest – priestess
    • prince – princess
    • seam – seamstress
    • steward – stewardess

    -ar/-er/-eur/-ier/-or/-ur

    • Ø – ambassador*
    • astronomy – astronomer
    • Ø – author
    • bar – barrister
    • cash – cashier
    • contract – contractor
    • Ø – doctor
    • fight fire – firefighter
    • dig grave – gravedigger
    • grocery – grocer
    • keep house – housekeeper
    • jewelry – jeweler
    • law – lawyer
    • radiography – radiographer
    • restaurant – restaurateur
    • retail – retailer
    • senate – senator
    • translate – translator
    • treasure – treasurer
    • Ø – tutor

    *Some names for people that appear to end in an -ar /-er/-eur/-ier/-or/-ur suffix were borrowed from a foreign language and do not have base forms.

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    Classroom Activity

    After teaching students about both the -er, -or, and -ar agent suffixes that attach to verbs and the -ist, -ian, -ess, and -ar /-er/-eur/-ier/-or/-ur noun suffixes that primarily attach to other nouns, have the students practice forming names for people by providing a list of verbs and nouns to which suffixes may be affixed. For example:

    Activity List

    • atheism
    • to build
    • cash
    • duke
    • to exterminate
    • to hate
    • to lie
    • lyric
    • music
    • to negotiate

    Answers

    • atheism – atheist
    • to build – builder
    • cash – cashier
    • duke – duchess
    • to exterminate – exterminator
    • to hate – hater
    • to lie – liar
    • lyric – lyricist
    • music – musician
    • to negotiate – negotiator
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    For a more complete list of nouns created through the affixation of the -ist, -ian, -ess, and -ar /-er/-eur/-ier/-or/-ur suffixes, please download the printable Names for People Vocabulary List.

English Noun Suffixes: Names for People

Suffixes are morphemes—the smallest linguistic units of a language with semantic meaning—affixed to the ends of words to create new words. This article explains a number of English noun suffixes that create nouns that are names for people including agent nouns and occupations.
  1. Deriving Nouns from Verbs: Names for People
  2. More Noun Suffixes: Names for People