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All of the time I see people use these two words synonymously. For example:

Why did he move there anyway?


Why did he move there anyways?

I always assumed that there was once just the word anyway that one day had an S added to the end for some reason. Is this assumption correct? What morphological process enables this to happen?

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"Anyways" shows up the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a "dialect" form of "anyway", while in the Oxford Dictionary, it's described as "informal or dialect form of anyway". I don't have a reference for it yet, but I think "anyways" is an American corruption of "anyway". – 40XUserNotFound Jul 4 '11 at 0:55
Oh, and as for the morphological process that allow this to happen (as a high-school English teacher once taught me): "Language changes over time and distance." – 40XUserNotFound Jul 4 '11 at 0:57
I've heard 'anyway' all my life but 'anyways' grates on me, for some reason. Reminds me of when 'for real' became 'for reals'; sounds a little cutsey-trendy to me (not that I expect anyone to stop saying either one on my account). – user82470 Jun 28 '14 at 17:55
Anyways sounds decidedly "hick from the sticks" to me, but I can't say the same about the other bastard offspring - anyhoo. Where did that one get started, I wonder? I think it's becoming a bit of a hoary old chestnut in Family Guy these days, but I'm sure I knew it donkey's years ago. – FumbleFingers Jun 28 '14 at 19:20
@FumbleFingers Anyhoo is a 'cutesy' pronunciation of the alternative anyhow. – Nothing at all Jul 14 at 0:20
up vote 7 down vote accepted

I've always thought the addition of the S was just an affectation. Slang usage.

People use laters/laterz online a lot in a similar way. There are other variants seen for anyhow, anyhoo is quite popular, spoken and written.

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I don't have any data for this, but I'd got the impression that "anyways" is a pretty established regional usage in some parts of the US? +1 for anyhoo — a lovely one, common in the UK... – PLL Feb 1 '11 at 2:57
The NOAD reports anyways as informal or dialectal. – kiamlaluno Feb 1 '11 at 2:58
@kiamlaluno: Well it is now, yes. My point was that the original addition seems to just be a corruption. – Orbling Feb 1 '11 at 12:19

The 's' wasn't added; for some uses of the word anyways, it has always had an 's' on it. The OED calls it an adverbial genitive.

The adverbial genitive was a grammatical form in Middle English; to summarize, 's' was sometimes added to the end of a word to show that it was an adverb. We don't do that anymore, but some adverbs have 's' on their ends as a remnant of this, for example towards, forwards, besides, and always. Anyways is one such remnant. The OED has the first citation in 1560:

all those who are any ways afflicted ... in mind, body, or estate

Of course, anyway is not always used as an adverb:

Why did he move there anyways?

For this usage, it historically did not have an 's' on it. However, since the 's' is now meaningless, I suspect that people who add the 's' for the adverbial usage of anyways often also add the 's' when it is used as a conjunction. The OED labels this "dial. or illiterate".

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A slight distinction that I've noticed (at least in my region), is that anyways is less formal and will be used more in unimportant conversation of the type, "What's going on with this weather, anyways?" - In other words "Why did he move there anyways?" I would imagine as an idle conversation topic where it might just be asked out of sheer boredom, while "Why did he move there anyway?" is more like, "I've wondered about this before and I'd like to know badly enough to aim the stream of conversation in that direction" No "real" difference, but mentally it has a slightly different feel. – DoubleDouble Jan 20 at 16:11

Anyways is probably a corruption, but seems to me to make just as much sense as the original. In Northern England, people use any road; equally sensible.

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