Can anyone tell me if there is any research/theories/books that can tell me more about the suffix 'ish'? I am looking for any information regarding the usage of the suffix and how it was formed? Any help :) thank you! much appreciated


Yes, ish is a very flexible-ish suffix that is used to form nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and slang.

Origin: From Old English (-isc); Old Norse (-iskr); to Greek (-iskos).

As nouns: to show nationality: Turkish; to show language: English; to show profession: dervish

Verbs: cherish; flourish

Adjectives: to show like, as in "They met at five-ish." to show something has characteristics like, as in "She is a boyish girl." to show something that tends toward, as in "He is bookish."

Adverbs: as in regularly-ish: "He leaves regularly-ish."

Used in slang:

A: Are you sleepy? B: Yea, ish!

Also, if you like, please check out this link: http://web.mit.edu/ayakasug/www/Sugawara2012ish.pdf

Hope that helps.

  • Similarity between this and @user99577's answer seems to require explanation. Perhaps this was intended as an edit rather than a separate answer. Both even make the same mistake of classifying the informal stand-alone usage as nominal. – Brian Donovan Nov 30 '14 at 17:34
  • Also, for synonym for either usage I would suggest somewhat, in the sense that OED classifies as adv. – Brian Donovan Nov 30 '14 at 17:40
  • would you say 'ish' nowadays is being used to convey approximation? e.g. 11ish or laterish? – zara khan Nov 30 '14 at 17:43
  • @zarakhan, yes, certainly, in the former case, but not I think in the latter. – Brian Donovan Nov 30 '14 at 17:48
  • ok thank you @BrianDonovan so if someone was to say 'it's your turn next ish' what would 'ish' be classified as there? – zara khan Nov 30 '14 at 17:52

In some cases, it can be used as a suffix meaning "like" (he is tallish), but in other cases it is used as an actual word. For example,

A: Are you sleepy? B: Yea, ish.

In sum, it is a suffix coming from Old English (-isc); and of Germanic origin, even Greek (-iskos). However, it is now also used as a noun (informally, of course,) in the States.

Hope that helps.

  • thank you for your help :) is there any evidence to suggest that 'ish' can stand alone? or how 'ish' came about to be an actual word? – zara khan Nov 30 '14 at 17:46
  • Yes, ish can stand alone. Please see the link I sent. I also wrote more info, but it was somehow deleted. – Patrick T. Randolph Dec 1 '14 at 5:48

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