With the variety of words that belong to the English language, it’s inevitable that we mix up the meaning of words or even sometimes assume that they mean the same. Take ‘postfix’ and ‘suffix,’ for example. Do we know the difference between the two? Let’s see!
Difference Between ‘Postfix’ and ‘Suffix’
‘Postfix’ and ‘suffix’ are two entirely different terms with entirely different meanings. We use ‘suffix’ in linguistics to signify attaching an affix at the end of a root word, while we use ‘postfix’ in computer and programming which signifies a notation that puts the operands before the operator.
Many people confuse ‘postfix’ and ‘suffix’ to mean the same, that both simply mean attaching a few letters to the end of a word. While this may be true for suffix, this is actually not the meaning of postfix.
Postfix is a term we most widely used only in programming and computers. Postfix acts as an adjective that describes a practice in programming to put the operands before the operator.
Suffix, on the other hand, is used in Linguistics and can be interpreted as a noun or a verb. As a noun, it refers to the affix added to the end of a root word, while as a verb, it refers to the action of adding that affix to the word.
It is essential to note, however, that some sources refer to ‘postfix’ as a lesser-used synonym of ‘suffix’ but essentially also means ‘to suffix’ or to attach a few letters at the end of a word. This definition of ‘postfix,’ however, does not show up in dictionaries.
In essence, it’s best to stick with ‘postfix’ as a programming term and ‘suffix’ as a Linguistics term that both mean two different things. This said, it also means that the two words are best not to be interchanged with each other, so as not to confuse both speakers and listeners or writers and readers.
‘Postfix’ is a technical term used in programming and computer that’s characterized by putting the operands of an expression before its operators. While ‘postfix’ does not appear in some dictionaries, its appearance in Merriam-Webster tells that the term is real and is used as a technical term in programming.
It’s essential to not confuse ‘postfix’ with the meaning of ‘suffix.’ While other sources may argue so, ‘postfix’ is not as widely accepted and used to refer to the addition of an affix at the end of a root word.
To understand what ‘postfix’ means in programming, take a look at the examples below.
- Standard Notation: 4 + 5 + 6
- Postfix Notation: 4 5+6+
Here, instead of between 4 and 5, we put the first plus sign after four and five. And, instead of between 5 and 6, we put the second plus sign after 5 and 6.
- Standard Notation: 2 x 4 / 6
- Postfix Notation: 2 4 x 6 /
Here, instead of between 2 and 4, we put the multiplication sign after them. And, instead of between 4 and 6, we put the division sign after them.
- Standard Notation: 7 + 3 – 4
- Postfix Notation: 7 3 + 4 –
Here, instead of between 7 and 3, we put the plus sign after them. And, instead of between 3 and 4, we put the minus sign after them.
‘Suffix’ is a term in Linguistics we use as a noun to refer to a syllable or a few letters that we add at the end of the word to modify its meaning, or as a verb to refer to the act of adding such letters.
‘Suffix’ is a term that’s more common to us, and its usage and meaning are more common as well. Some of the common suffixes we see every day are ‘-er’ in ‘teacher’ for example, or ‘-ful’ in beautiful.
Below are more examples of suffixes, root words, and transformed words.
- -ant: A person that is tasked to do something
- Root: Assist, Transformed: Assistant
- Root: Consult, Transformed: Consultant
- -ful: As much as an amount of something; “full”
- Root: Beauty, Transformed: Beautiful
- Root: Spoon, Transformed: Spoonful
- -ery: A type of place or work
- Root: Bake, Transformed: Bakery
- Root: Wine, Transformed: Winery
Which Is Used The Most?
According to the Google Ngram Viewer, ‘suffix’ is generally used more often than ‘postfix.’ It is probably because ‘postfix’ is such a technical term that’s almost only applicable in programming, while suffix is more common even within the everyday words that we use when we speak or write.
‘Postfix’ and ‘suffix’ are entirely two different terms that are not interchangeable with one another. ‘Postfix’ is a programming term that’s used to describe an expression where operand first then operator, while ‘suffix’ is a syllable we attach at the end of a word to modify its meaning.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.