The processes of forming words can be grouped into two;

  • Major word formation processes
  • Minor word formation processes


Major word formation processes are commonly used in forming words. They include:-

  1. Affixation
  2. Compounding
  3. Conversion


Major word classes are those which are not commonly used in forming words. They include:-

  1. Clipping
  2. Acronym
  3. Borrowing
  4. Blending
  5. Coining
  6. Neologism
  7. Onomatopoeia

CONVERSION (Zero Affixation)

Conversion is a word formation processwhere a word/base is converted into a new word class without changing its form.Examples;


  • Smile                     smile

Noun                              verb

I like your smile                   don’t smile

  • Bank                               bank

Noun                                       verb

CRDB is a commercial Bank      I bank with Exim Bank

  • Tax                                      tax

Noun                                           verb

We must pay tax                          We tax higher than Uganda


Compounding is the process of word formation that involves joining of two or more separate words or bases to form a new word e.g. black + board = blackboard, class + room = classroom, chair + person = chairperson, head + master = headmaster etc.


Solid compounds – In this type compound words are joined together e.g. Textbook, deadline, newsroom etc.

Open compounds – Compounds are written separately e.g. raw material, exercise book, school bus etc.

Hyphenated compounds – These are written with hyphens (- )e.g. long–term, book–keeping, map–reading, man–made etc.

Compounds can also be regarded as Opaque or Transparent

Opaque compounds are those compound wordswhose meaning is not found by looking the separate words i.e. the meaning is not cleare.g. deadline, sister-in-law, father-in-law etc.

Transparent compounds are those compounds whose meaning is the same with that of separate element (compound) i.e. the meaning is clear e.g. blackboard, newsroom, birthday etc.


Affixation is the process of forming words that involve an attachment of an affix to a root or stem. Affixation has three processes which are;

  • Prefixation
  • Infixation
  • Suffixation


Preffixation is the process of putting an affix before the base form e.g. un+ true – untrue

dis+ like = dislike



  • DIS – It means not

it is added to Added toAdjectives,VerbsandNouns.

e.g. dislike, disobey, disconnect

(ii) UN – (the opposite of )

it is added to Adjectives and verbs

e.g. unhappy,unexpected, unfair and unkind

(iii)  A – Means (lack of/in)

itisadded to Adjectives and Nouns

e.g. Assexual, amoral

(iv) NON – Added toAdjectives, Nouns and Verbs

  1. non – smoket, non – gradable, non – living things
  • IN, IL, IM, and IRR- (NOT)

E.g. incorrect, illogical, impossible, and irregular


(i) UN – (to reverse the action)

– itisadded to verbs

e.g. undo, unzip, untie

(ii) DE – ( to reverse theaction, to get rid of )

e.g. deforestation, decolonize, decode


(i) MIS – It means wrong orastray)

it is added to verbs

e.g. mislead, misinform, misconduct

(ii) MAL – (bad, badly)

it is added to verbs

e.g. maltreat, malnutriotion, malfunction

(iii) PSEUDO ( It means false or imitation)

e.g. pseudo – scientific, pseudo – Christianity


(i) ARCH – It means supreme, highest or arch

e.g. Arch bishop, Arch enemy, Arch fascist

(ii) it means above

e.g. supermarket, super power, supernatural.

(iii) OUT – It means to do something better

e.g. outline, outperform

(iv) OVER – It means too much

e.g. overgrazing, overconfidence, overfeeding

(v) UNDER – It means low quality

e.g. underfeeding, underperform

(vi) MICRO – It means something small.

e.g. micro-organism, micro-computer

(vii) MACRO- It means something big

e.g. macro – micro – organism, microcyte


(i) CO- It means joint or accompany with

e.g. co-exist, co-operative, co-education

(ii) PRO-

e.g. proCCM, prosocialism, proCHADEMA, proactive.

(iii) ANTI- It means something against/ being against

e.g. antclockwise, antichrist, antisocial, antibiotic, antivirus.


(i) PRE-It means before

e.g. pre-form V, premock, premature

(ii) FORE- It means before.

e.g. foretell, foreshadow, fore father, foreleg

(iii) POST- It means after

e.g. post election, post independence, post war, post scool, post graduate

(iv) EX- It means former

e.g. ex-husband, ex-girlfriend, ex-soldiers


(i) INTER- It means between/among

e.g. International, interschool, intermarriage

(ii) TRANS- It means across

e.g. Trans Sahara, trans-Africa, trans continental.

(iii) SUPER-It means over or above

e.g. superstructure, superimpose


(i) UNI- MONO – (one)

e.g. unilateral,  monocotyledon

(ii)  BI- DI- (Two)

e.g. Diphthong, bilingual, bicycle

(iii) TRI- (Three)

e.g. triangle, tricycle, trinity

  1. AUTO- (Self) e.g. automatic, autocratic

NEO – (New) neo-colonialism

PAN- (All, world-wide) e.g. Pan African, Pan American

PROTO- (First, original) e.g. prototype, protobantu

SEMI- (half) e.g. semi circle, semi final

VICE- (Deduty) e.g. vice president


Is a process of putting a morpheme after  the base

  • suffix is an element of structure that is added after  a base.
  • most of the suffixes are usually derivatives i.e. they change the word clss



  • occupational Suffixes
  • –ster e.g. gangster
  • –eer e.g. engineer, racketeer
  • Diminutive suffixes
  • –let (small, unimportant) e.g. booklet, piglet
  • –ette ( small, compact) e.g. kitchenette
  • Status, domain Suffixes
  • –hood (status) e.g. childhood, adulthood, widowhood.
  • –ship (status, condition) e.g. leadership, dictatorship, friendship
  • –dom (domain, status) kingdom, chiefdom
  • –ocracy (system of government) e.g. democracy, autocracy


  • –an ( belonging to, pertaining to)

added to proper noun – e.g. Tanzanian, republican, Indian.

  • –ese (means nationality when added to proper noun)

e.g. Japanese, Congolese, Chinese

(iii) –ist (member of a party, occupation)

e.g. capitalist, racialist, stylist

(iv) –ite (it is added to names to form personal nouns or adjectives)

e.g. Israel – Israelite, Stalin – Stalinite

(v) –ism ( means doctrine, a point of view or political movement)

e.g. socialism, capitalism, Nyerereism


  • –er (it means profession)

e.g. work + er = worker

teach + er = teacher

drive+ er = driver

  • –ant

e.g. account + ant = accountant

inform + ant = informant

  • –ee ( one who receives something)

e.g. employee, payee, trainee

(iv) – ation( state, action, institution)

e.g. organization, civilization, victimization

(v) –ment (state, action)

e.g. enjoyment, entertainment, development

(vi)-age (extent, amount)

e.g. coverage, westage

(vii) –al

e.g. refusal, dismissal.


  • –ness (state, quality)

e.g. sane + ity =sanity

rapid + ity = rapidity

elastic + ity = elasticity


added to nouns or adjectives to form transitive verbs

  • –ify (causative)

e.g. beauty + ify = beautify

amplify + ify = amplify

  • –ise (causative)

e.g. modern + ise = modernise

legal + ise = legalise

  • –en (to make more – causative)

e.g. wide + en = widen

sharp + en = sharpen


  • ful (fuu of ; having)

e.g. hope + ful = hopeful

help +ful =helpful

joy+ joyful

  • –ly (having the qualities of)

e.g. man – manly, friend – friendly, beast – beastly

(iii) –less ( without, not having)

e.g. tooth – toothless, child – childless, care – careless

(iv) –ish (belonging to, having the character of)

e.g. turk – Turkish, Sweden – Swedish, child – childish

(v) –able e.g. favour – favourable, comfort – comfortable

(vi) –y (like, full of; covered with)

e.g. sand – sandy, hair – hairy


  • –ly ( manner)

e.g. kind – kindly,

(ii) –ward(s) (manner and direction of movement)

added to preposition, adverbs, nouns etc)

e.g. on – onwards, south – southwards

(iii) –wise (in the manner of, as far as; etc)

added to nouns to form adverbs of manner, viewpoint etc

e.g. clock – clockwise,  education wise


Refers to insertion of an affix into the root or stem

there is no infixation process in English word formation



Is the process of forming words by  removing one or more syllables from a word.

clipping may occur at:-

  • the beginning – e.g. phone – telephone, plane – airplane
  • the end of a word– e.g. ad – adverstment, taxi – taxcab, mic – microphone, pub – public
  • both ends of a word – e.g. flu – influenze, fridge – refridgerator


Is the process of forming words by taking initial letters of words in phrase, sentence or names.

There are two types of acronyms:-

  • those pronounced as sequences of letters ( initialization)

initialization may be:-

  • the letters representing full words

e..g. UN – United Nations

CCM – Chama Cha Mapinduzi

EAC – East African Community

  • the letters representing elements in a compound or just parts of word

TV – Television

TB – Tuberculosis

GHQ – General Headquarters

  • those pronounced as words.

VETA – Vocational Education Training Authority

MOI – Muhimbili Orthopedic Institute

NATO – ( the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation)

RADAR – Radio Detecting  and Ranging)


Is the process of forming words by fragmenting elements of two bases and join (blend) them together

e.g. Brunch – breakfast + lunch

telecast – television + broadcast

mobitel – mobile telephone

flush – flash + gush

medicare – medical care

motel – motor +hotel

smog – smoke fog

interpole – international + police

transistor – transfer + resister


It refers to the process of forming words by taking a word from one language and incorporating it into another

Examples of English wordsborrowed from other languages include:-

alcohol ( Arabic), boxer and ozone (from German), piano (Italian), boss (Dutch) zebra (Bantu).

others include;

safari (Kiswahili)

judo, karate, tycoon (Japanese)

boutique, crusade (French)

pistol, polka, robot ( from Czech Republic)

cookie, lottery, boss, yatch (from Netherland and Belgium)

kangaroo (Australia)

amen, messiah, gauze ( from Israel)


It refers to the process of forming words through repetition of the same or almost the same sounds.


This is the process of forming new words by doubling an entire word (total reduplication) or part of a word (partial reduplication).


criss – cross,  ding- dong,  no – no, goody- goody, see – saw,  tip – top,  pooh – pooh,                       splish – splash, super – duper, ha – ha, zig – zag

NOTE: Reduplicatives are mostly informally.

uses of reduplicatives

  • To imitate sound e.g.ding – dong ( the sound of a bell), ha – ha (laughter), tick – tock (clock) bo
  • To intensify e.g. tip – top
  • to suggest alternative movement e.g. see – saw, zig – zag


It refers to the process of forming words through invention of new terms.

  • thenewly invented term is called eponym.
  • examples

aspirin, Kodak, nylon, sandwich,  Orlon


It refers to the extension of the meaning of a word to include new, foreign meanings. for example  the word “tick” its meaning has been extended semantically  to mean an “exploiter”


The creation of words that imitate natural sounds like the bird’s name cuckoo or pikipiki (motorcycle) and nyau (cat) in Kiswahili


Is the morphological process in which new words are are reversed from the words which existed earlier

e.g. the noun Television first into use then the verb Televise was created from it. Baby-sit has been created from the earlier noun Baby-sitter


It is a process which involves reduction. a  word of one type (normally a noun) is reduced to form another word of different type (usually verb)

e.g. – Televisin – televise

editor – edit

donation – donate

emotion – emote


This is a process which involves the change of the structure of a word.

e.g. man – men

foot – feet

  • the changes may be in:-
    • vowels

e.g. goose – geese

woman – women

  • consonants

build – built

has – had

  • the whole structure

e.g. go – went

buy – bought

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