-ary Suffixes



  • -ary is attached to some nouns to form adjectives with the meaning: “relating to, connected with”: element + -ary → elementary;
    honor + -ary → honorary.
  • -ary is attached to some roots to form personal nouns, or nouns that refer to objects that hold or contain things: secretary;
    -libr- (= root meaning “book”) + -ary → library (= place for holding books);
    glossary (= place containing specialized words and their meanings).
  • -ary is attached to some nouns to form adjectives with the meanings “contributing to;
    for the purpose of”: inflation + -ary → inflationary (= contributing to inflation);
    compliment + -ary → complimentary (= for the purpose of complimenting).

Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::



  1. (forming adjectives) of; related to; belonging to: cautionary, rudimentary
  2. (forming nouns) a person connected with or engaged in: missionary
  3. a thing relating to; a place for: commentary, aviary

Etymology: from Latin -ārius,-āria,-ārium

WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2020

ar•y  (ârē), 

adj. [Chiefly Midland and Southern U.S.]

  1. Dialect Termsany;
  2. anyone.
  3. Dialect Termsnone, not any;
  4. nary.
  •  alteration of e’er a ever a, in sense “any” 1810–20


a suffix occurring originally in loanwords from Classical and Medieval Latin, on adjectives (elementary;

tributary), personal nouns (actuary;
secretary), or nouns denoting objects, esp. receptacles or places (library;
glossary). The suffix has the general sense “pertaining to, connected with” the referent named by the base;
it is productive in English, sometimes with the additional senses “contributing to,” “for the purpose of,” and usually forming adjectives:




  •  Latin -ārius, -a, -um; English personal nouns reflect -ārius, objects and places -ārium or -āria; inherited and adopted French forms of this suffix are -er2, -eer, -ier2, -aire; compare -er1
  •  Middle English -arie

-ary‘ also found in these entries:

-aire-arian-arium-eer-ierArianYongeabecedaryachilaryacierateactuaryadulariaadversaryaerariumagrarianalaryalbariumalcyonarianalimentaryancillaryanniversaryantennaryantiphonaryantiquaryapiaryapothecaryaquariumarbitraryarcherariaarmillaria root rotarmillaryaryaryballosaryepiglotticatmospheric boundary layerauxiliaryaviaryaxillarybacillarybalistrariabanderillerobandoleerbannerbarcarolebarrerabarrierbase paybasic salarybeaver