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I only know the suffix is currently informalish. What is its provenience? What was the original meaning?

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Since the related links are anything but related, I'll supply a couple myself: Usage of the suffix “ish” and Is ‘Yes-ish’ a perfect alternative to Yes, or is it Yes ‘on condition’? Is it received English? – RegDwigнt Mar 31 '11 at 19:56
up vote 20 down vote accepted

The suffix -ish comes from Old English -isc and is a diminutive.

So it means the word is lessened in intensity. Normalish (while not a proper word) means a bit normal. Yellowish means the thing is a bit yellow. Smallish means something is small, but not overly so.

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There is of course the suffix -y, which can have the same or similar meaning - as in yellowy, for example. Oftentimes if the answer is "something-ish", there's an exagerated pause before stressed & stretched ish. That's easier to do with -ish than just -y, which is why I guess it's always first choice for the informal slang context. – FumbleFingers Mar 31 '11 at 22:42
When appended to times or dates (12 o'clock-ish), it means approximately. – Callithumpian Apr 1 '11 at 3:22
Eh? -ish isn't a diminutive. It's just an adjectivising suffix. Sure, it's cognate with suffixes that are diminutives in some other languages, but in Germanic in general, it's just one of the two most common adjectivising suffixes, with no diminutive meaning. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 16 '15 at 9:28

protected by RegDwigнt Jun 16 '15 at 10:53

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