a linguistic form that occurs only in combination with other forms. In word formation, a combining form may conjoin with an independent word (mini- + skirt), another combining form (photo- + -graphy), or an affix (cephal- + -ic); it is thus distinct from an affix, which can be added to either a free word or a combining form but not solely to another affix (Iceland + -ic or cephal- + -ic but not pro- + -ic). There are three types of combining forms: (1) forms borrowed from Greek or Latin that are derivatives of independent nouns, adjectives, or verbs in those languages; these combining forms, used in the formation of learned coinages, often semantically parallel independent words in English (cf., for example, cardio- in relation to heart, -phile in relation to lover) and usually appear only in combination with other combining forms of Greek or Latin origin (bibliophile, not bookphile); (2) the compounding form of a free-standing English word; such a combining form usually has only a single, restricted sense of the free word, and may differ from the word phonetically. Compare -proof, -wide, -worthy, -land, -man; (3) a form extracted from an existing free word and used as a bound form, typically maintaining the meaning of the free word, or some facet of it. Compare heli-2, mini-, para-3, -aholic, -gate, -orama. Note that the term “combining form” does not specify placement before or after the element to which the form is attached.
Origin of combining form
First recorded in 1880–85
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
a linguistic element that occurs only as part of a compound word, such as anthropo- in anthropology
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