Are all non-name words ending with ize always semantically interpreted as verbs in the English language?

Update: I just found a few: maize, prize that aren't. One about checking for two or more syllables before the ize? Is that a reliant method?

  • If you wait a few minutes, @tchrist can call up a list for you. ^_^ Absent that, look at the context as a better way to determine whether something is being used as a noun or a verb. – Robusto Jan 1 '15 at 18:50
  • Also, don't forget that in British English, the equivalent is -ise, which complicates things wonderfully, since more non-verbs end in that than do in -ize. – Robusto Jan 1 '15 at 18:56
  • @Robusto What size list are you looking for? :) – tchrist Jan 1 '15 at 19:09
  • This question fascinated me. The first word that came to mind was moisturize. I looked it up, and apparently the first known usage was 1945. This got me to wondering if the first noun with "ize" (having 2 syllables - so it seems like a suffix) becoming a verb, was responsible for the "ize" suffix meaning: to "do" the root. The noun I am speaking of is the product "Simoniz". The car wax product was invented in 1921, and by the mid-century in the US, simonize meant "to wax" one's car. Can anyone corroborate this? – Oldbag Jan 1 '15 at 19:46

OED notes that -ize is a productive suffix forming verbs. However a word like prize doesn't have an -ize suffix. As you have found yourself, the answer is obviously "No." Words ending -ize are not always verbs.

The OED entry for -ize has...

  1. Words that have come down from Greek, or have been at some time adopted from Greek, or formed on Greek elements.

    a. With the trans. sense of ‘make or conform to, or treat in the way of, the thing expressed by the derivation’, as baptize (prob. the earliest -ize word in English), anathematize, anatomize, ...

Baptize (which is properly spelled -ize even in British English, because it's derived from Greek βαπτίζειν with a zeta ζ ) is first attested in OED in 1297. The entry for -ize itself has a meta-citation from 1594, indicating that the suffix had become productive by that time. It's interesting that Nash calls such words "Italianate" rather than Greek.

1594 T. Nashe Christs Teares (new ed.) To Rdr. sig. **ijv, Reprehenders, that complain of my boystrous compound wordes, and ending my Italionate coyned verbes all in ize.

Prize, which is obviously not formed with -ize as a productive suffix, is found in late Middle English and first attested in that form in 1467, although a form pris is cited from 1250.

I put forward that there is no way of definitively finding words with a verbing -ize suffix other than by individual examination. That is, even identifying disyllabic words ending in an -ize syllable may not be sufficient. A single example is enough to prove that: assize n. OED contains 39 examples of nouns ending -ize, most of which are obsolete; however supersize (from 1876) is just about still current. But that example means that even more than one syllable before -ize is not reliable.

  • I don't think one can say "properly spelled -ize in British English". The preference for -ise is too long-standing and too widespread to consider it "improper". Some British English speakers do favour it, with the Oxford Spelling orthography being a famous example, but something once being zeta becoming s rather than z would not be the most bizarre change in the path of etymology. Your example is one that gives one argument in favour of -ise since there is baptism but not baptizm and so the -ise form visually matches the related word better. – Jon Hanna Jan 1 '15 at 20:55
  • @JonHanna Baptise is so spelled because of baptism, true. But it's that way round. – Andrew Leach Jan 1 '15 at 20:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.