I have read some posts about the suffix -ee, which is added to a verb to turn it into a word that describes a person having the action done to them: e.g. employ becomes employee, a person who is employed. I may have missed a question or thread, but I could not find anything that describes the limits of what -ee can be attached to.

I know that the verb has to be transitive, and the subject must be alive, but that is all.

  • These usually come in pairs employer/employee, And if an actor type word ends in -er (a person who does something to someone), then it is easy to make up a new word replacing -er- with -ee meaning, the person done to. But what about divorcee, fiancee, soiree, etoufee, marquee, banshee? – Mitch Jul 4 '16 at 14:57
  • 1
    Warning: There are people who dislike -ee words. A word like employee has been around long enough to become OK, but askee, asylee? After only the "a" list from the answer of @Max Williams I felt a strong urge to barf. +1 for his answer but minus infinity for some of the words on the list he referenced. – ab2 Jul 4 '16 at 17:38

It's not a rule of English grammar that you can add -ee to any verb to describe the subject.

It should be seen more as a common approach to creating a new word. Like any new word, or neologism, the resulting word still needs to be accepted by the community: many new words fail and die because people just don't like them.

You will find that in some cases, people can guess the meaning of your new -ee word, and accept it. In other cases, they might be confused or just dislike it. Many people might be resistant to the whole idea of inventing new -ee words and find the word "distasteful" for that reason.

The -ee words you could think of, like "employee", are neologisms that have gone through the "acceptance process".

Either way, it's a new word that you've created, rather than a product of standard grammar, and you should bear that in mind. If you were writing something formal, you would not normally include any neologisms - they are more well suited to something more light-hearted.

EDIT: the following page lists the -ee suffix words which have entered the language to date. More may enter in the future.


  • Can you give some example words that show where it is possible and where not? – Mitch Jul 4 '16 at 12:11
  • Note that this isn't a list of what is possible, it's a list of accepted words created with this process. There might be lots of others which will enter the language in the future (and therefore are "possible"). – Max Williams Jul 4 '16 at 12:22
  • Can you add a couple of those to you answer to make your answer complete by itself? And also give an acceptable neologism (one not on that list)? – Mitch Jul 4 '16 at 12:23
  • I've added the link, I don't see the value of picking some examples from that page and reproducing them in my answer. – Max Williams Jul 4 '16 at 12:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.