How did -hood evolve into the noun-forming suffix commonly used in words such as childhood, priesthood, or neighborhood— and including certain pseudonyms such as robinhood which could easily be construed as a brotherhood of robbers?

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    Robinhood would be the state of being a robin, not a robber. Someone employing robinhood as a pseudonym is probably referring to the legendary mediaeval outlaw 'Robin Hood', whose name is variously derived from 'Robin who wears a hood' or 'Robin of the Wood'. May 1, 2014 at 17:09
  • @StoneyB- According to the OED, vol.14, p.5 [Robin] is also a verbal substantive with variants in robbin and robing relating to thievery, thus I added my own assumption to the many others offered from the past, including the possibility that the name Robin Hood is a pseudonym and purely fictitious. Could you provide the source of your translation? May 1, 2014 at 18:49
  • 1. I have only OED1 and the 87 supplement, which suggest no such use of Robin, so you have information I do not. I would be glad to know more. 2. I'm puzzled to understand what you mean by 'the source of my translation'. May 1, 2014 at 21:53
  • @StoneyB- My source is the 1989 edition of the OED and admittedly I got ahead of myself in reviewing reading about 'rob, robbery, robin, robbin, robing', and the like. A new possibility though arose in my mind I will share with you. As a genealogist of 40 years now, I have learned to ask questions to reach goals of going from the known into the unknown. Its like putting "flesh on the bones", so-to-speak, as we delve into the past. Robin Hood could have been first expressed as "rob-in-hood" back in the 12th century. Could robbers dressed like hooded monks be a possibility to this expression? May 2, 2014 at 15:05
  • @StoneyB- In answering your puzzlement, I was referring to the translation or derivation as you put it, of Robin Hood itself as 'Robin who wears a hood' or 'Robin of the Wood'. I am interested to know your source and the reason behind those conclusions. All clues help in the final analysis. May 2, 2014 at 16:36

2 Answers 2


It comes from -hād in Old English, which means "state or condition".

Wiktionary meaning/origin of -had.


forming nouns of condition or quality, from nouns or adjectives

cildhād "childhood"

Wiktionary meaning of -hood


A condition or state of being the thing or being in the role denoted by the word it is suffixed to, usually a noun.

child - childhood

A group sharing a specified condition or state. brother - brotherhood

neighbor - neighborhood

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    It's a standard Germanic noun-forming suffix, cognate to German -heit (Freiheit 'freedom'). As one can see, which derivational suffixes like -hood/-heit or -dom/-tum survive, on which words, in which languages, is mostly an arbitrary matter. May 1, 2014 at 16:34
  • @Ronan- In Hall's Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary of 1916 the A.S. word 'hod' is defined as simply 'A hood' with no mention of any further definition of 'a condition or state of'. Are you referring then to a Middle/Modern English evolution from the O.E.? How do you go from 'A hood' as a noun for a covering to a noun forming suffix indicating a condition or state of being? I guess I am asking for more clarity. May 1, 2014 at 21:36
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    @DuaneT.Bentz You're looking at the wrong headword - try hād, with a long ā, as Ronan tells you: Hall, or Bosworth-Toller May 1, 2014 at 22:55
  • @StoneyB- I rechecked the Anglo-Saxon dictionaries from both Hall & Bosworth-Toller and you were right about 'had', except I noted that instead of a long vowel pronunciation mark over the 'a', there was an accent mark provided which I need more clarity into its correct pronunciation. The word 'hod' also comes with an accent mark over the 'o', perhaps you could explain that as well. May 2, 2014 at 15:04
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    @DuaneT.Bentz Vowel length was phonemic in OE, and the acute accent (áéíóúý) was standard for indicating long vowels in 19th- and early 20th- century studies; I believe a macron (āēīōūȳ) is more usual today. They mean the same thing. OE scribes rarely indicated length. May 2, 2014 at 16:17

Etymonline sees the relationship with German -heit - compare childhood and Kindheit. This suffix can be found in similar form in other Germanic languages as the wiktionary link -hood shows.

Etymonline gives as last source a PIE (s)kai bright shining. Personally I think this is a wrong track and a word family that has nothing to do with -hood or -heit as in childhood/ Kindheit where the suffix simply means state. For me it is enough to see a relationship with the Latin word class formed with the suffix -tas/tat-is or -itas/itatis as liber, adjective, meaning free and the noun libertas/libertatis meaning the state of being free, liberty or freedom. We may assume that this suffix is derived from Latin status/u:s meaning state/condition.

This connection is sufficient for me, I have no need of a PIE root as skai/kai bright/shining that explains absolutely nothing and is most probably a wrong track.

I assume that Latin -tat was changed into -hat with German -heit and English -hood.

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