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Where the letter "t" came from in these words? Is it part of the suffix -ter- or a separate suffix? Where the "s" comes from?

Can other words on -ster be formed this way?

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    I think for "webster" you'd have to ask Noah.
    – Hot Licks
    May 2, 2015 at 21:39
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    And don't forget that marvelous coinage from recent economic troubles: bankster. I see neither M-W nor OED has caught up with that one yet. May 2, 2015 at 21:49
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    Wiktionary: click on derived terms to see other words containing -ster
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 2, 2015 at 21:54

1 Answer 1

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The suffix-ster was originally a feminine suffix but in modern English has been used to form various derivative nouns with no specific gender:

Webster (n.):

  • "a weaver," Old English webbestre "a female weaver," from web (q.v.) + fem. suffix -ster. Noah Webster's dictionary first published 1828.

Gangster (n.) :

  • "member of a criminal gang," 1896, American English, from gang (n.) in its criminal sense + -ster.

Hipster

  • 1941, "one who is hip;" from hip (adj.) + -ster. Meaning "low-rise" in reference to pants or skirt is from 1962; so called because they ride on the hips rather than the waist (see hiphuggers).

-ster

Old English -istre, from Proto-Germanic *-istrijon, feminine agent suffix used as the equivalent of masculine -ere (see -er (1)). Also used in Middle English to form nouns of action (meaning "a person who ...") without regard for gender.

The genderless agent noun use apparently was a broader application of the original feminine suffix, beginning in the north of England, but linguists disagree over whether this indicates female domination of weaving and baking trades, as represented in surnames such as Webster, Baxter, Brewster, etc. (though spinster probably carries an originally female ending). Also whitester "one who bleaches cloth." In Modern English, the suffix has been productive in forming derivative nouns (gamester, punster, etc.). (Etymonline)

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    And let's not forget *lobster too. I was about to answer this question :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 2, 2015 at 21:45
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    According to Etymonline the etymology is from Proto Germanic -istrijon, see above description.
    – user66974
    May 2, 2015 at 21:50
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    Corresponding to Middle Low German -(e)ster, (Middle) Dutch and modern Frisian -ster, it represents a West Germanic type -strjōn-, forming feminine agent nouns, probably a derivative of the Germanic -stro- forming nouns of action, as in Old Norse bakstr (masculine), act of baking, Old High German galstar neuter, incantation. - OED
    – pazzo
    May 2, 2015 at 21:50
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    @Anixx - Borrowed from Vulgar Latin -istria, which is borrowed from Ancient Greek -ιστρια (-istria). (Wiktionary) en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/-ster
    – user66974
    May 2, 2015 at 21:59
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    @Anixx - yes, that's why I showed it only as a comment. I'd not add it to the answer. We need a more reliable reference to add further information.
    – user66974
    May 2, 2015 at 22:33

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