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The suffix -leas is used to derive adjectives from nouns with the meaning "without {noun}". For example: wurk work > wurkleas unemployed, help help > helpleas helpless and doel aim > doelleas aimless.

Rokkeleas reckless is the only form in which the base has been lost as an independent word *rokke, which leaves the complex adjective with a non-transparent meaning.

Most of the -leas derivations only occur in the written language, and many are loan translations (calques) from Dutch.

[+]General properties

The suffix -leas is used to derive adjectives from nouns with the meaning "without {noun}". Examples are given below:

Table 1
Base form Derivation
hoop hope hoopleas hopeless
treast comfort treastleas comfortless
namme name nammeleas nameless
lûd sound lûdleas soundless, silent
stim voice stimleas voiceless
kleur colour kleurleas colourless
dak roof dakleas roofless, homeless
war defence warleas defenceless
wil will willeas spineless, unresisting
macht power machtleas powerless
soarch care soarchleas carefree
god god goddeleas irreligious
Many derivations belong to the written language, and are in fact loan translations from Dutch. A current alternative is a description with the preposition sûnder without. An example is sûnder lûd without sound instead of lûdleas soundless, silent.

[+]Phonological properties

The addition of -leas [lɪ.əs] normally does not change the main stress of the word. The stress falls on the first syllable: MACHT power > MACHTleas powerless, DAK roof > DAKleas roofless, homeless.


Sometimes, and possibly under Dutch influence, the base form gets an additional -e- augment, which is pronounced as /ə/. For example: macht power > macht-e-leas powerless, soarch care > soarg-e-leas carefree, god god > godd-e-leas irreligious.

[+]Morphological potential

Also to adjectives formed with the suffix -leas a suffix -e can be added, with the meaning "person without {noun}". Example are: wurkleas unemployed > wurkleaze unemployed person, goddeleas irreligious, goddeleaze irreligious person.

Adjectives ending in -leas can likewise be input for nominalizations in -ens or -heid: leafdeleas loveless > leafdeleazens/leafdeleasheid lovelessness , treasteleas cheerless > treasteleazens/treasteleasheid cheerlessness. See here for the stress pattern with the suffix -leas in this case.

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Note that if the suffix is not in word-final position, the voiceless /s/ becomes voiced /z/, which is also reflected in the orthography. Examples are dakleaze and dakleazens.

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This topic is based on Hoekstra (1998:139).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy