What is an Infix? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 Internal Affix
  • 0:58 Formal Infixes
  • 1:30 Infixing for Intensification
  • 2:39 Where Does it Go?
  • 3:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

There are many different ways to alter or enhance the meaning of a word. In this lesson, you will learn about the infix, a type of affix that alters a word's meaning in a unique way.

Internal Affix

Think about how you make words plural in English. Typically, you add an 's' onto the end, right? If you want to negate a word, you might add 'un-' or 'im-' at the beginning (such as 'possible' being changed to 'impossible').

These are examples of affixes. Affixes are grammatical elements that you attach to a word to alter its meaning. Affixes are very common in English. In particular, there are a wide number of prefixes, which attach to the beginnings of words, and suffixes, which attach to the ends of words. There are also circumfixes, which surround the word by attaching to both the beginning and the end.

There is one type of affix that functions a little differently and is far less common in English. An infix, rather than going on the beginning or end of a base word, is inserted into the base word itself. Let's learn more by starting with formal infixes.

Formal Infixes

In formal English, the main type of infix is in words with unusual pluralization. Making most English words plural is as simple as putting an 's' on the end. However, there are a few words where the 's' actually goes in the middle of the word.

One example of this is the hyphenated word 'mother-in'law.' The plural of 'mother-in-law' is not 'mother-in-laws' but 'mothers-in-law.' The 's' is inserted in the middle of the phrase.

Can you think of another example? What about the word 'passerby?' If you have more than one passerby, then you have 'passersby.'

Infixing for Intensification

You are far more likely to see infixation in colloquial, or informal, English. In informal conversation, infixation is sometimes used for emphasis, or to intensify the root word. The infix in these cases is typically either an expletive or a soft version of the expletive.

One famous example comes from the musical My Fair Lady. Eliza Doolittle, the main character, sings the following lines as part of her opening song, 'Wouldn't it be Loverly:'

'Oh so loverly sitting
Absobloominlutely still'

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