Can any noun ending in -ism describing some system or belief be changed for -ist to describe a member of that system?

My question might be confusing, so I will run through a few examples:

Nihilism => nihilist
Feminism => feminist
Racism => racist

This seems to follow a pretty predictable pattern. So, when I learned a new word a while ago - misoneism (having a fear or hatred of innovation or change) - I was expecting to be able to call someone a misoneist, if it ever came to that.

Unfortunately, while most dictionaries (online and paper) I have checked so far contain the word misoneism they do not contain the word misoneist. Were my assumptions correct that you can create any -ist noun from a root of -ism, or is this word in the dictionary because it really doesn't exist?

  • The compulsive looking up in dictionaries, dictionaryism, is only practiced by dictionaryists. (Welcome to the club.)
    – bib
    Feb 11, 2015 at 14:09
  • Some Greek-derived terms have an -ism, but not (usually) an -ist, including cynicism and stoicism.
    – Sven Yargs
    Mar 5, 2016 at 0:47
  • The Phrontistery has a list of 234 -isms. You could do individual searches for the use of the corresponding -ists. 'Illusionist' might cause problems. Mar 5, 2016 at 14:35

2 Answers 2


It does seem that your proposition is by and large correct. One can think of a variety of exceptions, but it generally seems to hold that where you find an ...ism, there will usually be an ...ist!

But not all followers of something are ...ists, some are ...ites e.g Luddites (I've never heard Luddism used, though).

Adherents of Nazism are plain Nazis. That is a clear exception of an ...ism, without an ...ist. I have no doubt that there are others and people will think of them.

In British politics you have had, at different times Benthamites, Brownites, Blairites, Bennites etc. But I am not sure if any were ...isms.

Of course it doesn't work the other way round. There are many ...ists who do not follow an ...ism e.g. economist, sociologist etc.

  • Thanks for the input WS2. It seems the -ite suffix is for when the follower was originally of a person or some other proper noun, such as Luddite after Ned Lud, Blairites after Tony Blair etc. It seems that most of the counter examples I can think of are where the root of the word existed first, and a new version of -ism or -ist came later.
    – Richiban
    Feb 11, 2015 at 13:15

No - counter example:

Catholicism => Catholic

but not


  • 1
    Another counterexample: jism -/-> jist
    – mikeagg
    Feb 11, 2015 at 10:33

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