14

If a word ends in -exia (such as dyslexia, anorexia, and pyrexia), does this imply anything about the word itself?

For example, in electronics a word ending in ‑ance (such as impedance or resistance) means the word is related to a property of the component in the circuit.

Does anything similar hold for ‑exia?

  • 14
    @EdwinAshworth What misconception? It sounds a perfectly reasonable enough question to me. If you are going to close such things as this, what will there be left? – WS2 Aug 23 '15 at 9:14
  • 1
    They needed to name a bunch of diseases and all the other suffixes were taken. – Hot Licks Aug 23 '15 at 12:58
  • 1
    @WS2 To quote sumelic, 'The words "dyslexia" and "anorexia" actually don't have the -exia suffix, although they end in the same letters and they do refer to disorders.' OP could have easily found the etymologies of dyslexia and anorexia himself. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 23 '15 at 13:05
  • 6
    @EdwinAshworth If we are going to be that strict about it, almost any question posed here, could be answered if enough painstaking research were done. Whilst I agree that there are far too many instances where people simply ask something like 'how does diarrhoea differ from dysentery; when all they need do is look the two words up in a dictionary. Clearly those merit closure, but in this case the question does present an interesting topic for discussion. – WS2 Aug 23 '15 at 17:33
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth How would you suggest amending it? – Quantum spaghettification Aug 24 '15 at 9:21
28

If a word ends in -exia, such as dyslexia, anorexia and pyrexia does this imply anything about the word itself?

It doesn't necessarily imply something about the word. Josh61's answer (which you should read, and which I won't copy here) gives an excellent explanation of the suffix "-exia," used in the word "pyrexia" and also for some other medical conditions like "cachexia."

But, it is important to keep in mind that sometimes words end in the same sounds by coincidence, rather than because they share a suffix.

The words "dyslexia" and "anorexia" actually don't have the -exia suffix, although they end in the same letters and they do refer to disorders.

It appears that the "suffix" proper that these words have in common is simply -ia. It comes after the noun stem orex- (meaning "appetite") in anorexia, and after the noun stem "lex-" (meaning "speech, word") in dyslexia.

But, both of these noun stems are derived from verb roots using the common nominalizing suffix -s(is). So "orexis" = "oreg.sis," from the verb "orego" ("reach"), and "lexis" = "leg.sis," from the verb "lego" ("speak").

So, you could view the above two words as sharing a sort of "compound suffix" "-s.ia". But in both cases, the "e" and the first part of the "x" belong to the root rather than to the suffix.


Here's one-by-one etymological information:

"anorexia" word origin according to Oxford Learner's Dictionaries:

via late Latin from Greek, from an- ‘without’ + orexis ‘appetite’.

"anorexia" on Etymonline:

1590s, "lack of appetite," Modern Latin, from Greek anorexia, from an-, privative prefix, "without" (see an- (1)) + orexis "appetite, desire," from oregein "to desire, stretch out" (cognate with Latin regere "to keep straight, guide, rule;" see regal) + abstract noun ending -ia. In current use, often short for anorexia nervosa.

"orexis" (ὄρεξις) etymology according to Wiktionary:

From ὀρέγω ‎(orégō, “I stretch”) +‎ -σις ‎(-sis).

"dyslexia" word origin according to Oxford Learner's Dictionaries:

from "dys- ‘difficult’ + Greek lexis ‘speech'

"dyslexia" on Etymonline:

c. 1887, from German dyslexie (1883), from Greek dys- "bad, abnormal, difficult" (see dys-) + lexis "word," from legein "speak" (see lecture (n.)) + abstract noun ending -ia. Dyslexic (n.) is first recorded 1961; dyslectic (adj.) from 1964.

Presumably the same suffix "-sis" was used here, though neither Etymonline nor Wiktionary say this explicitly.

origin of "pyrexia" according to Merriam Webster:

New Latin, from Greek pyressein to be feverish, from pyrites

  • 1
    This breakdown works just as well for pyrexia and cachexia, actually: the suffix -exia in those is also just a compound suffix, made up of -(h)ech- ‘have’ + -si- + -ia. The only difference is that those have an extra element that ends in a velar after the root, instead of just having a root that ends in a velar. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 23 '15 at 10:26
  • 2
    Also, sometimes the "coincidence" is somewhat intentional. If there were other conditions that ended in exia, the coiner of dislexia may have chosen to use the root lex to parallel that construction. This choice could also have been subconscious. – Barmar Aug 24 '15 at 18:53
15

-exia refers to a condition, a pathology in medical terms. It comes from PIE segh ( to hold or have) according to Etymonline.

  • (pathology) forms the names of functional diseases or of conditions such as pyrexia or cachexia.

-exia:

  • condition. (Medical terminology)

Cachexia (n.)

  • "bad general state of health," 1540s, from Latinized form of Greek kakhexia "bad habits," from kakos "bad" (see caco-) + -exia, related to exis "habit or state," from exein "to have, be in a condition," from PIE root segh- "to hold, hold in one's power, to have"

  • PIE root segh- "to hold, to hold in one's power, to have" (cognates: Sanskrit sahate "he masters, overcomes," sahah "power, victory;" Avestan hazah "power, victory;" Greek ekhein "to have, hold;" Gothic sigis, Old High German sigu, Old Norse sigr, Old English sige "victory").

Note that the suffix -exia is not related to anorexia and dyslexia where the suffix is -ia instead:

-ia:

  • word-forming element in names of countries, diseases, flowers, from Latin and Greek -ia, which forms abstract nouns of feminine gender. In paraphernalia, Mammalia, etc. it represents the Latin and Greek plural suffix of nouns in -ium or -ion.
  • Sometimes -ia also shows up in names of towns, e.g. Mexia, Texas. – Ville Aug 23 '15 at 17:41

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.