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I happen to find superlatives with the structure below:

Adjective + most,

which are: the rearmost, the frontmost, the uppermost, the headmost, the outermost, the topmost, etc.

What are the general rules to form this type of superlative? Is it related to direction?

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Matt, I actually find "outmost" in Oxford dictionary. Do we normally use "outermost" because "outmost" is considered archaic? –  AndonDraif Nov 23 '11 at 14:09

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

They mean the latest point reachable when you move in a certain direction:

  • rightmost -> move right until you can't move anymore
  • headmost -> move ahead until you can't move anymore

and so on.

The point you've reached when you can't move anymore is the point the speaker is talking about.

So in general:

  • "direction"most -> move in "direction" until you can't move anymore. You will see what I mean there
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Utmost? Uttermost? –  FumbleFingers Nov 23 '11 at 16:19
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Good idea :-). The "ut" in "utmost" is an old form of "out", so it's a direction in that sense too. It's going to the point the furthest out. –  Raku Nov 23 '11 at 17:13

The "general rule" to form an "Adjective + most" superlative is, tack on most after an adjective, and see if it's meaningful and sounds right; which is how most such words were formed. There are some interesting "misformed" exceptions, for example foremost which derives as a corruption or variant of formest or fyrmest, "altered on the assumption that it is a compound of fore and most."

Most itself is a superlative of much, many, or more (but is sometimes used colloquially in place of almost). As a suffix, it lends a "most extreme" meaning, in the same sense or "direction" suggested by the word it suffixes.

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