Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In British English vocabulary, most words with 'z's are replaced with 's's. For example, capitalization to capitalisation. Industrialization to industrialisation.

But for some words, like citizen, for example, it has a z instead of a s. Why is this like this?

share|improve this question
6  
Your statement is incorrect. It is far too general; Kosmonaut correctly states that it only applies to suffixes (and some at that). –  Noldorin Oct 4 '10 at 18:05
24  
Why isn't television "televizion" in American English? –  ShreevatsaR Oct 4 '10 at 18:16
2  
I'm no expert, but I'm wondering if your base postulate is chronologically accurate: from my perspective, in American English vocabulary, most words with 's's are replace with 'z's :) –  Benjol Oct 5 '10 at 5:33
13  
I went to an Italian restaurant recently. I had pissa and some fissy water. Then I went to the soo to look at the sebra. –  Seamus Oct 5 '10 at 11:46
4  
Just as a point of order, British people aren't citizens, they are subjects. –  user774 Feb 23 '11 at 10:24
show 3 more comments

2 Answers

up vote 22 down vote accepted

There is a suffix that is written only as -ize in American English and often -ise in British English (but not always, as ShreevatsaR points out in the comments). This suffix attaches to a large number of words, thus the s/z alternation shows up in a large number of words. Citizen does not have the -ize/-ise suffix.

share|improve this answer
10  
It would be redundant for me to add another answer, but let me note that both -ise and -ize are prevalent in British English. Wikipedia has two related articles: the one on spelling differences and Oxford spelling. –  ShreevatsaR Oct 4 '10 at 18:23
5  
Nor does 'analyse', but Americans resolutely spell it 'analyze' (or do they also write 'analize' sometimes?). –  Colin Fine Oct 5 '10 at 9:42
7  
Analyze does have the -ize/-ise suffix, just a different spelling. From the OED: "On Greek analogies the vb. would have been analysize, Fr. analysiser, of which analyser was practically a shortened form, since, though following the analogy of pairs like annexe, annexe-r, it rested chiefly on the fact that by form-assoc. it appeared already to belong to the series of factitive vbs. in -iser, Eng. -ize ... to which in sense it belonged. Hence from the first it was commonly written in Eng. analyze, the spelling accepted by Johnson, and historically quite defensible." –  Kosmonaut Oct 5 '10 at 14:15
add comment

It's possible that the etymology of citizen is linked to that of denizen.

share|improve this answer
10  
They aren't etymologically related, but the spelling of citizen was, in fact, influenced by denizen — only not the "z" part. It used to be citezein. –  Kosmonaut Jan 5 '11 at 23:00
add comment

protected by Will Hunting Apr 4 '12 at 14:59

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.