Let's say I have a word like unhappy.

The "un" is called the prefix. What is the other bit called?

  • 2
    See also: Morpheme
    – NVZ
    Jul 5, 2016 at 12:33
  • 16
    Obviously it's the "fix" ... prefix means before the fix right? Right?! I'll show myself out.
    – aslum
    Jul 5, 2016 at 16:33
  • J E Littlewood noted in his Miscellany that the longest word in English, antidisestablishmentarianism, is all 'form' except for the content 'sto'
    – Henry
    Jul 5, 2016 at 21:11

3 Answers 3


Root noun [C] (of a word):

  • The root of a word is its most basic form, to which other parts, such as affixes, can be added: The root of the word "sitting" is "sit".

Cambridge Dictionary

  • 1
    I'm not sure that's exactly answering the question. What is the root of "disintegrating"? (Probably "disintegrat" or "integrat", but not "integrating," right?) Jul 5, 2016 at 19:02
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    @ChristopherCreutzig The root word for "disintegrating" is "integrate". Then you add the "dis" prefix and "ing" suffix, apply the rule in English for when you add an "ing" to a word with a silent "e" and you get "disintegrating"
    – Kevin
    Jul 5, 2016 at 20:57
  • 1
    @ChristopherCreutzig -teg- (meaning touch, as in the game of tag)
    – Henry
    Jul 5, 2016 at 21:15
  • @Henry: -teg- doesn't stand as a word in its own right, so it isn't the root in the sense of the OP's question. The OP isn't asking about the etymological root. Kevin Wells is correct in giving the root of disintegrating as integrate. Jul 6, 2016 at 4:20
  • @KevinWells: Exactly my point. The question here was, if I read it literally, what to call "integrating," which is what you get after removing the "dis" prefix. Jul 6, 2016 at 5:25

Stem noun:

  • the part of a word that is left after you take off the ending

Although I'd disagree with that and allow "taking off the prefix" too, as per word stem:

  • a stem is a form to which affixes can be attached

See also affix, suffix, infix, adfix.


This may be the math talking, but the word 'base' is commonly used to describe the word that a prefix or suffix can be added to.

the root or stem of a word or a derivative.

  • the uninflected form of a verb.

-Oxford [2010]

I would like to note that (take this maths) that derivative would not quite work, as it means

a word derived from another or from a root in the same or another language.

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