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Derivation is the formation of new words by adding wordformation elements to a base word. The wordformation elements are not independent words. For example, in

be+arbeiten  =  bearbeiten
Mensch+heit  =  Menschheit

the wordformation elements be and heit are not independent words. The words bearbeiten and Menschheit have been formed by derivation.

There are three basic types of derivation:



The wordformation element, the suffix, is added at the end of the base word. For example:

Mensch+heit, Sitz+ung, rund+lich, analysier+bar

The word class and the inflection class (with nouns also the gender) of the derived word are determined by the suffix.


The wordformation element, the prefix, is added at the beginning of the base word. For example:

Ur+mensch, ver+setzen, un+rund, ein+schreiben

The derived word inherits the word class and the inflection class (nouns also the gender) of the base word.


No wordformation element is involved. Therefore, this type of derivation is sometimes called zero-derivation. The base word is shifted from one word class to another word class without a wordformation element or another word being added. For example:

essen  »  das Essen
Würfel  »  würfeln
schuldig  »  der/die Schuldige

The type of conversion determines the word class and the inflection class (with nouns also the gender) of the derived word.

The description of derivation is divided into chapters according to the word class of the derived words:

Noun derivation
Adjective derivation
Verb derivation
Adverb derivation
Pronoun derivation 

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