The suffixes -ist, -ite, and -ian all mean a follower of a person or idea. For example, a follower of Christianity is a Christian, a follower of Buddhism is a Buddhist, and a follower of Shia Islam is a Shiite. What is the difference between all of these suffixes?
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From Chambers Dictionary:
I couldn't find anything on -ist. They generally all mean the same thing though and I assume the reason we have all three in English is so there is always a good aesthetic/phonetic fit for various situations.