• To attach as a secondary or complementary part to something greater or pre-established

  • (Of territory) To procure for the purposes of incorporating into another dominion

  • To add on or confer on the basis of merit or as a necessary attribute


  • A supplementary or extra addition; especially an added clause or section to a document, or a structure built off of a main building as an extension


That building would be perfectly symmetrical…if only it didn’t have that little extra part stuck on the end there. It's obviously not part of the main structure: it's way smaller, the walls are made out of a different material, and the paint is much less faded, indicating that it's probably a recent addition. It looks like it was stuck on as an afterthought, an extra, an addition by an architect who felt the original building wasn't quite enough. A little added-on section like this is called an annex.

It's common to hear annex used to describe an extension of a building, but the word also has several other meanings and can be used both as a verb and a noun. As a verb, to annex is usually to add a part as a smaller or supplementary feature to something bigger. Think of something like a contract with such abstruse legal terms that it needs a special page at the end to explain them, or a superhero movie with a "secret" scene after the credits. You could say that extras like those get annexed to the originals to make them easier to use or enjoy. Note, though, that annexes to legal documents are often expected to be understandable on their own.

Annex is often used to refer to the act of taking part of someone else's territory and adding it to (i.e. claiming it as part of) your own domain. While it does make perfect sense to use this meaning when talking about amicable additions, like the US' purchase of the land that became Alaska or that time you bought Boardwalk from your buddy in Monopoly, to annex a region like this often implies an unwarranted, unexpected, or contested seizure. You may remember studying in history class about how the Romans built their empire by annexing land as far as Africa.

Annex has one more meaning as a verb, but it's sometimes considered a little old-fashioned, and you might not find it intuitive. This sense of annex is used to say that some small factor, like a right, privilege, or responsibility, is attached to a person or thing as a condition or naturally necessary part of it. If something is annexed to people in this way, it's conferred because something about them merits or requires it. At a wedding reception, the expectation to give a toast is annexed to the best man because that's what best men are traditionally supposed to do, and the right to cut the cake first is annexed to the bride and groom because, well, it's their wedding. You might apply this meaning to an object, too. For instance, if you were writing a story about a tree, you could annex to it special characteristics because you wanted it to symbolize something.

Annex' usage as a noun is much more straightforward. In general, it refers to a small addition that you add to enhance or extend something else. Usually, additions like these are physical, like an annex at the end of your thesis paper that lists your references or a shallow section of your pool that you have installed so the kiddies can swim, too. You'll often hear the word used to describe smaller rooms or structures adjoined to preexisting buildings to provide extra space or to serve a special function. And yes, it would be correct, if redundant, to say that you annex an annex to something.

Example: Lexicographers often annex a section of example sentences to the entries they write.

Example: The state park annexed the abandoned lot to serve as a wildlife sanctuary.

Example: In the US, the power to declare war is annexed to Congress.

Example: I found the textbook's annex of important definitions very helpful.

Example: The philanthropist donated enough money for the hospital to build a new annex for geriatric care.


Tied up in the development of annex is the idea of attachment. The word's history stems from the Proto-Indo-European root ned-, which meant "to tie" or "to affix." From this would develop the Latin verb nectere, which looks like "nectar" but actually means "to bind" (and is also an ancestor of connection). Latin speakers would add to this verb a form of the prefix ad- (for "to") to create the verb annecetere, meaning "to tie or bind to" (as in the act of attaching something to something else). This in turn would inspire the Old French annexer, which, meaning "to affix" or "to join," is the closest ancestor of what we know as annex. Annex would first appear in English as a verb during the late 1300s, with its specific use as a reference to the taking of territory arising by the turn of the 15th century. The noun form of annex wouldn't arise in English until the first half of the 1500s.

Derivative Words

Annexes: This simple present form of annex is used when a singular third-person subject adds a secondary part to something else or claims territory as their own.

Example: In the new science fiction movie, Russia annexes a large swath of Mars.

Example: The writer annexes an epilogue at the end of each of his novels.

Annexed: This preterit form of annex is used when a subject augments something with a supplementary part, or claims territory as its own.

Example: The students annexed part of the cafeteria to hold a debate.

Example: Each photograph was annexed with an explanatory caption.

Annexing: The progressive form of annex is used when a subject is currently making an addition to something or seizing a piece of territory.

Example: The natives did not appreciate colonists annexing their homeland.

Example: Ever since I won the lottery, I've been annexing my home with additions like a library and an iguana room.

Annexation: This noun refers either to the act of adding a supplementary addition to something or of seizing a piece of territory.

Example: I was taken aback by my roommate's annexation of my desk.

Example: The annexation of the contract took more time than actually writing it.

Annexationist: This noun can refer to a person who adds a supplementary part to something else or to a country or leader that seizes land. However, it is most commonly used adjectivally to characterize a leader, country, or policy as focused (maybe overly so) on grabbing territory.

Example: The government was headed by an annexationist who seemed to take pleasure in appropriating indigenous lands.

Example: Eventually, his overly annexationist policies got him impeached.

Annexure: Annexure is a noun used in British English to denote a supplement added on to something larger. While an annexure is essentially an annex, the term is often used specifically to refer to an explanatory addition to a legal document or report.

In Literature

From John Updike's Rabbit is Rich:

As long as Nelson was socked into baseball statistics or that guitar or even the rock records that threaded their sound through all the fibers of the house, his occupation of the room down the hall was no more uncomfortable than the persistence of Rabbit's own childhood in an annex of his brain; but when the stuff with hormones and girls and cars and beers began, Harry wanted out of fatherhood.

In this passage, Updike uses annex to mean a small, secondary section, in this case of his character's brain. Accordingly, this annex holds something "extra": the memories and lessons of childhood, which, though they play a part in determining who we are, don’t usually have a primary role in our everyday activities.

From Gaston Leroux' The Mystery of the Yellow Room:

To enable the reader the better to understand the disposition of these parts of the dwelling, I annex a plan of the first floor of the right wing, drawn by Rouletabille the day after the extraordinary phenomenon occurred, the details of which I am about to relate.

Annex here refers to the action of adding a supplement to a written work. In this case, the supplement Leroux annexes is a layout of the eponymous Yellow Room, which is meant to help readers as they try to solve the mystery.


In British English, annex is sometimes spelled annexe.


  • Annex is next to something bigger

  • Annex connects a little something

  • Annex: An Extension


Architecture, Construction, Geography, Politics, Writing, Connections

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of annex. Did you use annex in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.