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113
votes
3answers
15k views

Why does “quadratic” describe second power when “quad” means “four”?

In mathematics, quadratic means "involving the second and no higher power of an unknown quantity or variable". But the prefix quad- usually describes something that has to do with four, such as ...
41
votes
1answer
4k views

Origin of “-ing”

What is the origin of the suffix -ing used to form gerunds and present participles? Why is the suffix the same in both cases?
21
votes
4answers
9k views

A murder of crows?

I love the subset of collective nouns known as the terms of venery. These are collective nouns specific to a particular group of animals. Some of the more inventive examples are: a murder of crows, a ...
15
votes
5answers
5k views

How do you form the 'north' and 'south' versions of 'occident' and 'orient'?

How does one correctly form the "north" and "south" forms for which occident and orient are "west" and "east"? I found boreal and austral, but those look like adjectives and I'm after the nouns. ...
14
votes
2answers
16k views

Word formation with the nominal suffix -tion: when and why do we insert an “a”?

Recently, a colleague became flustered when she used orientate instead of orient. She says she frequently makes this sort of "back formation error" because of the nominal form, which is orientation. ...
13
votes
4answers
998 views

The use of “trespasses”

According to a dictionary search for "trespasses": v. Enter the owner's land or property without permission n. A voluntary wrongful act against the person or property of another, esp. unlawful entry ...
12
votes
1answer
20k views

Why is it “grandfather”, but “great-uncle”?

I know that there are six forms of this word, but "great-uncle" is most common ("great-aunt" has a similar graph). Why is this, if "grandfather" and "grandmother" are common?
9
votes
1answer
2k views

Why is “coon” a word?

The word formation process that yielded the word coon is called (fore-)clipping: raccoon > coon Other examples of fore-clipping include: bot (robot), chute (parachute), roach (cockroach), coon ...
9
votes
2answers
619 views

Is there a rule for when contractions are not possible? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Is there some rule against ending a sentence with the contraction “it's”? In conversing with non-native English speakers online, I saw someone type: ...
8
votes
2answers
310 views

Is 'worse' the only comparative that has neither -er nor more?

There was a question recently about comparatives and it got me thinking about how comparatives are formed. There are those that take -er and those that use more to indicate comparison, but is worse ...
7
votes
1answer
417 views

Diminutive forms in English.

In many languages, formation of diminutives by adding suffixes is a productive part of the language. Many languages apply a grammatical diminutive to nouns, a few—including Dutch, Italian and Russian ...
6
votes
4answers
5k views

How are diminutives formed in recent English words?

A large variety of suffixes were used to form diminutives in English. The Wikipedia page on diminutives shows these: * -k/-ock/-uck: balk, bollock, bullock, buttock, fetlock, folk, hark, hillock, ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

What's the adjective form of “data”/“datum”?

"Informative" is the adjective form of "information". What's the adjective form of "data"/"datum"?
6
votes
1answer
608 views

Why “USSR” but not “UCSR”?

USSR stands for Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The adjective "Soviet" is formed from the noun "Soviet" which in Russian means "Council". (That was roughly the idea behind the revolution and USSR ...
6
votes
1answer
357 views

How do I present a word ending in “‑f ” that may be plural or singular?

When we don’t know if a word refers to one or more, it is common to use a parenthetical s: door/doors: door(s) lamp/lamps: lamp(s) What’s the best or least awkward way to render this for words ...
6
votes
2answers
1k views

How suffixes like -ness and -ship are chosen when forming abstract nouns?

In some programming situations I came across making up abstract nouns to give name to an information that indicates some quality. Eg. if the quality is orange one may be tempted to form the word ...
6
votes
2answers
149 views

Squeegee with a squeegee

Squeegee is: a scraping implement, usually consisting of a straight-edged blade of india-rubber, gutta-percha, or the like, attached to the end of a long handle, for removing water, mud, etc. ...
5
votes
16answers
12k views

Is there a word to describe the state of being the only one of something?

I need a word to describe the state of being the only one of something. For context, it's for the UI of a scientific device that detects and analyzes cells. In this particular case, we are talking ...
5
votes
1answer
169 views

What is the opposite of -genic?

English uses the suffix -genic to mean "generating / generated by / producing": anxiogenic (anxiety-producing) iatrogenic (caused by the healer / doctor) neurogenic (produced by the nervous system) ...
4
votes
3answers
358 views

bemustached versus mustached

I’ve just read an article in The Huffington Post in which the phrase “bemustached 26-year-old” was used: Sex and sword swallowing beg some pretty obvious comparisons, but the similarities aren’t ...
4
votes
3answers
197 views

Prefix 'mono' + 'o-'

Monobjective vs monoobjective. I do not know which of both words is right in English. Context: scientific/formal. Example: "monoobjective optimization". Is there any general rule in English about ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Is it proper to use ordinal suffixes on fractions?

I know in more formal writing, spelling out fractions is preferred (e.g. two-thirds), and in math no suffix is used, but I frequently see ordinal suffixes being used on fractions (e.g. 2/3rds), even ...
3
votes
6answers
5k views

Email Capitalization: “Hi Michael, please bring…” or “Hi Michael, Please bring…”

In an email, if I don't put a new line after the heading, how am I supposed to capitalize the next word? With a new line, it's straightforward: Hi Michael, Please bring the books. But ...
3
votes
2answers
707 views

What is the adjective form of “black humo(u)r”?

If one were to describe a statement by referring to "black humour", how should he/she go about forming the adjectival form of the term? "blackly humourous" or "black humourous"
3
votes
1answer
1k views

“Mutexes” or “mutices”? [closed]

When we create new words ending in -ex (mutex being short for mutual exclusion), should we (may we?) use the Latin plural form because the suffix is similar to the latin suffix -ex? (Personally I've ...
3
votes
1answer
114 views

Why does English have 'interception'/'intercept' instead of 'interception'/'interceive'?

A recent EL&U question about the word inception led me to look into discussions of the (theoretical but not actual) verb inceive, which turned up a discussion in Harry Bochner, Simplicity in ...
3
votes
1answer
657 views

Name of a word where you can continually remove one letter from the beginning or end

This is possibly off-topic here - please redirect me if necessary I am looking for the name of a type of word where you can continually remove one letter from the start or end of the word, until ...
2
votes
2answers
796 views

Why don’t other pronouns get to albe-themselves, à la albeit’s “it”?

YES: "Euthanizing this particular kitten was a traumatic, albeit humane necessity." NO: "The geese, having pooped everywhere, made for hideous pets, albethem delicious as an entree." NO: "Most of the ...
2
votes
3answers
3k views

Beneficiaries of an action ending with the “-ee” suffix

To refer to the beneficiary or patient of an action, sometimes one can form a word using the verb and the -ee suffix, e.g. assign → assignee employ → employee refuge → refugee On the other hand, ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

Mixing adjectives and nouns in scientific writing

I've noticed that biological scientists tend to use nouns as adjectives when detailing experiments both in writing and in speech. Examples: The experiment was performed "in monkey cortex" instead ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

Is 'acronymise/ze' a word? Is it used only colloquially, if at all?

I just sent a text to a friend, who didn't understand an acronym I used for a game: "Ah, I said it in a previous text so thought it was ok to abbreviate it." Though, since it was an acronym I ...
2
votes
2answers
68 views

Word-formation process - which one?

I would like to ask if anyone knows what word-formation process takes place when we join two separate words (for instance 360 + flip) and create a word '360 flip' written separately, but used as a ...
2
votes
1answer
292 views

“Nightmare” derivation

I did some research about word nightmare. In most cases this is what I've found: night + Old English mære "incubus." I would like to use the word mare for poetic purposes, but its meaning in ...
2
votes
1answer
498 views

Etymology/word formation of “program” (as in computer program)

The word is obviously derived from the noun 'programme' however I can't work out which way it's most likely to have been created. I'm thinking its either descended from the British spelling of the ...
2
votes
1answer
83 views

Creating new words [closed]

A student told me a speaker came to his company and was very interesting. This came up in the context of his preparation for a presentation about his company. In looking at the material the speaker ...
1
vote
2answers
711 views

The relation between “temporal” and “time”

The word "temporal" is the XXX form of the word "time". What is XXX? I can't find the answer anywhere, I don't even know where to look.
1
vote
2answers
45 views

Usage of the “non” word when describing something which does not belong to a project (or any organizational group)

The dictionary contains many words which start with "non", e.g. non-acceptance or nonacceptance (with a hyphen and without it). I tried to find out if I can build a new word by using the word "non" ...
1
vote
2answers
1k views

Sugarcane or Sugar cane? [duplicate]

Is there a difference between "sugar cane" and sugarcane? Is sugarcane wrong? What is the gramatical rule for joining two names like that? I have found 13.500 entries on google for sugarcane, but ...
1
vote
3answers
84 views

Person, People, Peoples, and other linguistically similar words

Now, person is singular, and can decline to the plural persons or people, depending on region, level of formality, and nuance. Let's ignore persons for the moment and just focus on people. People, ...
1
vote
1answer
187 views

What does “lay to heart” mean?

I am studying a few words in Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary that have connected definitions or meanings: hearken, heed, observe, attend, and regard. One definition of 'regard' is: "To consider ...
1
vote
1answer
39 views

Adverbial Form of “Supplementary” [closed]

Does the word "supplementary" have an adverbial form? My first instinct is the word "supplementarily," but as far as I can tell that isn't a word.
1
vote
2answers
146 views

Hour minute format pluralization in a specific context

Check the following screens: https://www.dropbox.com/s/bp40q2yqk4xatzc/11.png https://www.dropbox.com/s/cobof2uvk6htwv9/1.png you can see that I'm not consistent with the hour format. My question ...
1
vote
1answer
226 views

Can something be “ratable”?

As I explained in my other question, I'm writing up specs for a website with learning materials for our alpha testers to comment on. Among others, I'm describing the rating system, which has multiple ...
1
vote
1answer
23 views

Usage of the phrase “in itself” in this specific context?

"The watching in itself of this video put my brain in a bit of a knot." If I want to use the term "in itself", is this the correct way to format a sentence, if I want to put emphasis on the ...
1
vote
2answers
128 views

Is “testes” an inflectional reduplication?

I was supposed to ask this question 1 year ago and it is based on a discussion in this question that I answered: What is a word called that consists of a repetition of one word? I gave testes as an ...
1
vote
1answer
296 views

Why are some “-ist” suffixed words used as the adjective form over the more common “-istic”?

Generally speaking, for any kind of "-ism", the suffix "-ist" produces the noun form and "-istic" produces the adjective form. But there are some "-ist" suffixes that are acceptable or even more ...
1
vote
1answer
384 views

Adverbial form of “scrutiny”

What is the adverbial form of the word scrutiny? I'm looking for the exact synonym of the "with scrutiny" expression. I've tried searching for the form like scrutinily but I've only found something ...
1
vote
3answers
230 views

Word for “little body”?

Is there any term (a diminutive) in English for "little body"? I suppose that the forms such as "bodylet" and "bodyling" are utterly incorrect. Here is the context: "Graving snow caressing the little ...
1
vote
0answers
64 views

From where do new English words come? [closed]

There are, always, new editions of well-known English dictionaries updated with new English words, therefore, what are the sources of these new English words? Please, be as clear as possible, and use ...
1
vote
2answers
66 views

Morphological analysis of the formation of unhappier

I am an English student from Austria and have a question concerning morphology. In the reading I did for one of my introductory courses on linguistics there was a chapter on the analysis of ...