Years ago from JRR Tolkien's The Silmarillion, I learned the delightful suffixes -ence and -ither in the word meanings:

  1. hence: from this nearby place
  2. hither: toward this nearby place
  3. thence: from that far place
  4. thither: toward that far place
  5. whence: from the place
  6. whither: toward the place

Recently, as a joke to use the words, I sent a friend an SMS message: "Later I'll arrive at your place. I will go hence thither, and return thence hither. Haha".

Now in creating this question, I realized ... there is at least one more suffix, "-ere":

  1. here
  2. there
  3. where

I haven't thought about it as a member of a set of 3 until today, because it's in everyday use. While "-ence" and "-ither" have all but vanished, and so when someone uses them, it makes a spoken or written sentence more interesting.

So, do other suffixes exist or is there an essay of discussion about these and related terms somewhere out there?

Extra thought: "-at".

  1. What
  2. That
  3. not sure if ever there's been a word starting with H for "nearby", however, everyone knows the idiom "this, that, the other"... so I could suggest "this" instead of "Hhat".
  • 1
    I believe this th- is from Proto-Indo-European *to-, a pronominal stem, and h- from a Proto-Indo-European pronominal stem so-. And I believe wh- is from a Proto-Indo-European interrogative stem somewhat like *k(h)ʷ-. Cf. he, her, they, then, when, who, which. – Cerberus Apr 6 '14 at 4:54
  • 2
    There are/were hereto, hereunto, thereat. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 6 '14 at 7:41
  • @EdwinAshworth This is mind boggling!! – Tom Pace Apr 6 '14 at 7:50
  • Wherefore (art thou Romeo), therefore – Mynamite Apr 6 '14 at 10:41
  • Hereabout, thereabout, whereabouts. There's no end to them! – Mynamite Apr 6 '14 at 11:18

What an interesting phenomenon, thanks for asking the question. In trying to find similar instances, it occurred* to me that there's a relationship between the prefixes of the 5 W's; although not locative or directional, their is a narrative relationship: 'who, what, where, when, why'.

I originally thought of this in Spanish: who = quien, what = que, when = cuando, and (por) que (what for). The qu and c's are basically equivalent because of their k sound (in Italian the words are also mixed between qu, c and che, a hard k sound, and why is also 'what for'.) This may just be coincidence, since the words for where--donde in Spanish, dove in Italian--while obviously related to each other, have no Latin root (that I can find), and the Latin for where, quo, would create 5, rather than 4 q/c/ch/k's.

I'd be interested in any thoughts on the Spanish/Italian equivalents to the English counterparts, and their relationships to each other (not to mention the missing where--well, you'd need a 'where' to find out where the where is, wouldn't you?!

Thanks to all for the interesting posts.

*(I understand the double r in the past tense, but why the double c in occur?)

  • 1
    Found the Latin origins of donde: (de) unde = (from) whence, and dove: (de) ubi = where! – user71804 Apr 12 '14 at 0:47
  • That is amazing work! I have read your answer and comment 2-3 times and gone looking now myself based on your thoughts. The do- in spanish and italian appears, at least to me, as a general localization tweak (must be some term for that) on the unde/ubi latin bases. I wonder if there are from (-ence) and toward (-ither) suggestive parts in latin, or other languages. – Tom Pace Apr 12 '14 at 1:29

"-wards" can be locative suffixes that turn a noun into an adverb: viz. homewards, onwards, upwards, downwards, inwards.


"-wise" is another, as in clockwise, counterclockwise (or anticlockwise) and the less-common edgewise, lengthwise, leftwise, and rightwise. Wiktionary has a long list under "Derived terms."

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