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Title: Infix  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Affix, Na'vi language, Chamorro language, Akkadian language, Reference desk/Archives/Miscellaneous/2007 September 24
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


An infix is an affix inserted inside a word stem (an existing word). It contrasts with adfix, a rare term for an affix attached to the outside of a stem, such as a prefix or suffix.

When marking text for interlinear glossing, most affixes are separated with a hyphen, but infixes are separated with angle brackets.


English has almost no true infixes (as opposed to tmesis), and those it does have are marginal. A few are heard in colloquial speech, and a few more are found in technical terminology.


  • Chemical nomenclature includes the infixes pe, signifying complete hydrogenation (from piperidine), and et (from ethyl), signifying the ethyl radical C2H5. Thus from the existing word picoline is derived pipecoline, and from lutidine is derived lupetidine; from phenidine and xanthoxylin are derived phenetidine and xanthoxyletin.


None of the following are recognized in standard English.

  • The infix iz or izn is characteristic of hip-hop slang, for example hizouse for house and shiznit for shit. Infixes also occur in some language games.
  • The ma infix, whose location in the word is described in Yu (2004), gives a word an ironic pseudo-sophistication, as in sophistimacated, saxomaphone, and edumacation. This exists as a slang phenomenon.

The use of 'expletive infixes' such as fucking and bloody, which are words rather than affixes, is known as tmesis.

Other languages

Indo-European languages

The present tense of some Proto-Indo-European verbs adds a nasal infix (m, n) to the basic root; the stems of the other tenses have the root without the infix.


In Nicaragua and neighboring countries, the Spanish diminutive affix becomes an infix it in names: Óscar [ˈoskar]Osquítar [osˈkitar] (cf. standard Oscarito); EdgarEdguítar; VictorVictítor.


Arabic uses a common infix, t ت for Form VIII verbs, usually a reflexive of Form I. It is placed after the first consonant of the root; an epenthetic i- prefix is also added since words cannot begin with a consonant cluster. An example is اجتهد ijtahada "he worked hard", from جهد jahada "he strove". (The words "ijtihad" and "jihad" are nouns derived from these two verbs.)

Austronesian and Austroasiatic languages

Infixes are common in Austronesian and Austroasiatic languages. For example, in Tagalog, a grammatical form similar to the active voice is formed by adding the infix um near the beginning of a verb. Tagalog has borrowed the English word graduate as a verb; to say "I graduated" a speaker uses the derived form grumaduate.

Khmer, an Austroasiatic language, has seven different infixes. They include the nominalizing infix b, which derives lbeun 'speed' from leun 'fast' and lbong ' trial' from long 'to test, to haunt'.

In Indonesian (bahasa Indonesia) there are at least 5 kinds of infixes (sisipan). They are el, em, er, ah, and in. Examples:

  • The word 'gembung' means "bloated", while 'gelembung' means "bubble"'.
  • The word 'cerlang' means "luminous", while 'cemerlang' means "brilliant"'.
  • The word 'gigi' means "tooth", while 'gerigi' means "serration"'.
  • The word 'dulu' means "first" or "advance" or "olden", while 'dahulu' means "formerly"'.
  • The word 'kerja' means "work", while 'kinerja' means "performance"'.


In Seri some verbs form the plural stem with infixation of tóo after the first vowel of the root; compare the singular stem ic 'plant (verb)' with the plural stem itóoc. Examples: itíc 'did s/he plant it?' and ititóoc 'did they sow it?'.

Similar processes

Tmesis, the use of a lexical word rather than an affix, is sometimes considered a type of infixation. These are the so-called 'expletive infixes', as in fan-fucking-tastic and abso-bloody-lutely. Since these are not affixes, they are commonly disqualified from being considered infixes.

Sequences of adfixes (prefixes or suffixes) do not result in infixes: An infix must be internal to a word stem. Thus the word originally, formed by adding the suffix -ly to original, does not turn the suffix -al into an infix. There is simply a sequence of two suffixes, origin-al-ly. In order for -al- to be considered an infix, it would have to have been inserted in the non-existent word *originly. The "infixes" in the tradition of Bantu linguistics are often sequences of prefixes of this type, though there may be debate over specific cases.

The Semitic languages have a form of ablaut (changing the vowels within words, as in English sing, sang, sung, song) that is sometimes called infixation, as the vowels are placed between the consonants of the root. However, this interdigitation of a discontinuous root with a discontinuous affix is more often called transfixation.

An interfix joins a compound word, as in speed-o-meter.


When glossing, it is conventional to set off infixes with angle brackets, rather than the hyphens used to set off prefixes and suffixes:

shiznit, saxomaphone, pipecoline



which is a suffix -ly added to the word original, which is itself a suffix -al added to the root origin.

See also


  1. ^ vinco. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary on Perseus Project.
  2. ^ λαμβάνω. Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project


  • Alan C. L. Yu (2004) Reduplication in English Homeric Infixation
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