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In a question about ships, I added an answer with the etymologies that underpin both ship and -ship.

  • "Ship" stems from scip: "O.E. scip "ship, boat," from P.Gmc. *skipan (cf. O.N., O.S., Goth. skip , Dan. skib , Swed. skepp , M.Du. scip , Du. schip , O.H.G. skif , Ger. Schiff )."
  • "-ship" stems from "O.E. -sciepe , Anglian -scip." (both from Dictionary.com)

There's more to both etymologies, and perhaps the abbreviations are obsfuscating the answer to this question, but how are O.E. scip and Anglian -scip related, if at all (which basically ties back into the original question)?

  • More apropos this question, to the extent an etymology would differentiate the two, what familial resemblance or other relationship does O.E. have to Anglian?
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Gathering data from both the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus and etymonline, it seems that both come from the late Old English verb scipian, which comes from Proto-Germanic skipan. I couldn't find out much more, though…

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Actually there seems to be some convergence.

If you trace back the etymology of both the suffix and the noun back to Proto Indo European, that is.

The short answer is that:

  • -ship has the idea of "in shape of" and to give a shape you have to carve and cut.
  • A Ship also has can be carved out and cut from some tree trunk.

That could possibly looks far-fetched, but you can actually see the etymology converge gradually from Old English to Proto Indo European via Proto Germanic.

Here is what you get from etymonline for both "-ship", and "Ship".

Old English (etymonline)

  • -ship => O.E. -sciepe, Anglian -scip "state, condition of being,"

  • Ship => O.E. scip "ship, boat"


Proto Germanic

  • -skapaz (-ship), see Modern German -schaft as in Freund-schaft (friend-ship). At this point etymonline forwards to "to shape" (the verb). This might be the weak point of the chain, I must say.

  • *skipan (Ship), see Modern German Schiff (ship, boat)


Proto Indo European

  • *(s)kep- (to shape) "to cut, to scrape, to hack".
  • *skei- "to cut, split". (Ship) Makes sense if you carve a boat in a tree trunk and you only need half of it.

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