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  1. a suffix with the general sense “of the kind of, pertaining to, having the form or character of” that named by the stem, occurring in loanwords from Latin (autumnal; natural; pastoral), and productive in English on the Latin model, usually with bases of Latin origin (accidental; seasonal; tribal). Originally, -al1 was restricted to stems not containing an -l- (cf. -ar1); recent lapses in this rule have produced semantically distinct pairs, as familiar and familial.
Compare -ical, -ial.

Origin of -al1

< Latin ālis, -āle; often replacing Middle English -el < Old French


  1. a suffix forming nouns from verbs, usually verbs of French or Latin origin: denial; refusal.

Origin of -al2

< Latin -āle (singular), -ālia (plural), nominalized neuter of -ālis -al1; often replacing Middle English -aille < Old French < Latin -ālia


  1. Chemistry. a suffix indicating that a compound contains an aldehyde group: chloral.

Origin of -al3

presumed to be short for aldehyde
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for -al


suffix forming adjectives
  1. of; related to; connected withfunctional; sectional; tonal

Word Origin

from Latin -ālis


suffix forming nouns
  1. the act or process of doing what is indicated by the verb stemrebuttal; recital; renewal

Word Origin

via Old French -aille, -ail, from Latin -ālia, neuter plural used as substantive, from -ālis -al 1


suffix forming nouns
  1. indicating an aldehydeethanal
  2. indicating a pharmaceutical productphenobarbital

Word Origin

shortened from aldehyde
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for -al


suffix forming adjectives from nouns or other adjectives, "of, like, related to," Middle English -al, -el, from French or directly from Latin -alis (see -al (2)).


suffix forming nouns of action from verbs, mostly from Latin and French, meaning "act of ______ing" (e.g. survival, referral), Middle English -aille, from French feminine singular -aille, from Latin -alia, neuter plural of adjective suffix -alis, also used in English as a noun suffix. Nativized in English and used with Germanic verbs (e.g. bestowal, betrothal).


word-forming element in chemistry to indicate "presence of an aldehyde group" (from aldehyde). The suffix also is commonly used in forming the names of drugs, often narcotics (e.g. barbital), a tendency that apparently began in German and might have been suggested by chloral (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

-al in Medicine


  1. Aldehyde:butyral.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.