Geochemical variations in modern subduction-related igneous suites with respect to arc ‘maturity’ in time and space are illustrated using data for both volcanic suites (basalt, andesite and dacite) and intrusive granitoid suites (diorite, tonalite/granodiorite and granite) from circum-Pacific arcs. Using trace element data we suggest that two groups of processes control the natural variation in the parental magmas of both suites: (a) subduction-zone enrichment of lithospheric mantle, locally coupled with crustal assimilation allied with fractional crystallization (AFC) in zones of thickened crust, all of which yield magmas with enhanced concentrations of the large-ion lithophile (LIL) elements K, Rb, Th, U, LREEs, etc; (b) with increasing distance from the active trench, contributions from within-plate sub-continental lithosphere producing mantle-derived magmas with enhanced levels of high-field strength (HFS) elements, among which Nb, Ta, Hf and Y are particularly distinctive. Thus, even for the evolved granitoids of intrusive arc series, ratios of HFS/LIL elements not significantly affected by crystal fractionation, such as (Ta, Nb)/(K, Rb, La), may throw some light on the origin of mafic-intermediate precursor magmas. In terms of these elements we suggest the following groupings for interpreting the tectonic associations of granitoid suites. 1. Primitive, calcic arc granitoids with low LIL and HFS element abundances. 2. Normal, calc-alkaline continental arc granitoids with enhanced LIL element abundances and low HFS/LIL ratios. 3. Mature alkali-calcic arc granitoids with high levels of LIL and HFS elements and higher HFS/LIL ratios. 4. Back-arc/anorogenic alkaline granitoids with the highest levels of HFS elements.