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An infix is an affix inserted inside a word stem (an existing word or the core of a family of words). It contrasts with adfix, a rare term for an affix attached to the outside of a stem such as a prefix or suffix.[note 1]

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.
  • The ⟨ma⟩ infix (or "Homeric infix," after Homer Simpson), 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.
  • Infixes also occur in some language games.
  • The use of 'expletive infixes' such as fucking and bloody, which are words rather than affixes, is known as tmesis.

Other languages

Indo-European nasal infix

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.

  • Latin present vinc? "I win" (cf. perfect passive participle victus "conquered")[1]
  • Ancient Greek lambán? (also with -an- suffix) "I take" (cf. aorist él?bon "I took")[2]
  • Sanskrit uses a nasal infix as a characteristic mark of verbs of the seventh class, or ga?a. This infix takes the form of -na- in strong forms and -n- in weak forms (changing to retroflex ? after r and to m before labial sounds). For the root ? rudh, meaning "to block or hinder," one has ? ru?adhmi "I block" but rundhma? "we block" in the present tense.


In Nicaragua and neighboring countries (Honduras, Costa Rica) (Nicaraguan Spanish, Costa Rican Spanish and Honduran Spanish), the Spanish diminutive affix becomes an infix ⟨it⟩ in names: Óscar ['oskar] -> Osquítar [os'kitar] (cf. standard Oscarito); Edgar -> Edguítar; Victor -> Victítor.[3][better source needed]


Arabic uses a common infix, ⟨t⟩ ? 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 ijtahada "he worked hard", from 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. The most common infix is -in- used to make an intentional verb, as in 'giniba', meaning 'ruined' (from 'giba', an adjective meaning 'worn-out'); 'binato', meaning 'stoned' (from 'bato', 'stone'); and 'ginamit', meaning 'used'. 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 Malay and related languages like Indonesian, there are three kinds of infixes (sisipan). They are ⟨el⟩, ⟨em⟩, and ⟨er⟩. Examples are:

  • The word 'gembung' (variant of 'kembung') means "bloated", while 'gelembung' means "bubble"'.
  • The word 'cerlang' means "luminous", while 'cemerlang' means "brilliant"'.
  • The word 'gigi' means "tooth", while 'gerigi' means "serration"'.


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 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:

sh⟨izn⟩it, saxo⟨ma⟩phone, pi⟨pe⟩coline



which contains the suffix -ly added to the word original, which is itself formed by adding the suffix -al to the root origin.

See also


  1. ^ In mathematics, the terms prefix ("Polish Notation") and postfix are used.


  1. ^ vinco. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary on Perseus Project.
  2. ^ ?. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek-English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  3. ^ "The Study of Language (Etymology)". (in Spanish). Retrieved .


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