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Affixes: the building blocks of English
Affixes: the building blocks of English

-flation Also -flationary.

Economic inflation, especially in a particular field.

[The second part of inflation, ultimately from Latin flare, to blow.]

Inflation began to be applied to economic matters in the 1830s in the sense of a general increase in prices and consequent fall in the purchasing value of money. It was followed in the second and third decades of the twentieth century by deflation (the reduction of the general level of prices in an economy), reflation (reversing or countering of deflation), and hyperinflation (an acute form of inflation). All except the last are specialist applications of terms that already existed, all derived from Latin originals in which the prefixes were already attached to the root verb.

Various blended compounds have been created in more recent times on the models of such words to characterise particular states of a nation’s economy. The earliest was stagflation (stagnation + inflation), recorded from the UK in 1965, followed by slumpflation (slump + inflation) in 1974.

Beginning in the US in 1976 with taxflation (an increase in the income tax that a person has to pay because an inflation-linked rise in income causes him or her to move into a higher tax bracket), -flation began to shift from being the second part of a blend towards becoming a combining form. However, because most examples are transitory and rather rare, it’s as yet uncertain if this is a permanent shift.

Geographical examples are Euroflation (inflation in Europe) and globflation (worldwide inflation). Several refer to rises in the cost of a specific commodity or good: adflation (the cost of advertising space or time), beerflation (beer), medflation (providing medical services), oilflation (price rises caused by the high price of oil imports), and trainflation (increased train fares). Other examples are gradeflation (grade inflation, awarding higher grades than students deserve either to maintain a school’s academic reputation or as a result of diminished teacher expectations), kidflation (inflation affecting children and businesses whose customers are principally children or young people), legisflation (the increasing cost of legislation), and stickyflation (with much the same sense as slumpflation). One that seems settled in the language is biflation (simultaneous inflation and deflation).

Adjectives are formed in -flationary (see -ary2): reflationary, taxflationary.

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