Ask the Editor
Serenity Carr, Associate Editor
Nouns ending in -ness
Friday July 29th 2016
What does "-ness" mean at the end of an adjective?  — Fabio, Colombia

When you add "-ness" to an adjective, it becomes a noun. The suffix "-ness" means "state : condition : quality" and is used with an adjective to say something about the state, condition, or quality of being that adjective.

For example, redness is a red quality, and redness means "the quality of being red."

  • The redness in his eyes went away after he got some sleep.

Bitterness is a bitter condition, or "the condition of being bitter."

  • The breakup caused them to feel anger and bitterness.

Sleepiness means "the condition of being sleepy."

  • Her sleepiness made it difficult for her to pay attention in class.

Weightlessness is a weightless quality.

  • She was happy about the weightlessness of her new luggage.

Inquisitiveness means "the state of being inquisitive."

  • The inquisitiveness of the puppy caused him to get into trouble sometimes.

Bashfulness means "the state of being bashful." Friendliness means "the state of being friendly."

  • The bashfulness of the new student soon became friendliness.


Not all adjectives can be made into nouns using "-ness." Typically, if an adjective is in its -er or -est form, "-ness" cannot be added: higher and highest cannot become higherness or highestness. Typically, if an adjective is actually a participle of a verb, "-ness" cannot be added: washed and running cannot become washedness or runningness. Most other adjectives, however can be made into nouns by adding "ness."

I hope this helps.