What is the history of the suffix -itute, as in constitute, prostitute, institute, restitute, and substitute?

  • Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/231010/…. -ute generally comes from a Latin past participle, and so originally had adjectival meaning, still evident in destitute. But that's not very helpful now, because most of the words have become nouns or verbs, and in modern English have lost their former adjectival senses completely. – Colin Fine Feb 28 -2015.
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 21:59

2 Answers 2


It's not so much a suffix, but is rather a root. It comes from the latin statuere, "cause to stand, establish" which comes from the Proto-Indoeuropean root *steh₂- "to stand."

As words change in meaning over the years and centuries, and have different origins from other languages even though they share the same root, it might not be immediately obvious how these words all share the same root. A good dictionary with etymology will shed light on this.

Here's a list of the words you gave and the prefix meanings used. I'll also give a rough translation with the root so you have an idea how the meanings evolved.

Prostitute uses the prefix pro- "before" and comes from the latin past participle of prostituere: "to expose publicly." Stand Before

Constitute derives from the latin prefix com- "with, together" Establish Together

Institute uses the prefix in- "into, in, on, upon." Establish Upon

Restitute uses the prefix re- "again, back, anew." Establish Anew

Substitute uses the prefix sub- "under, below, beneath, at the foot of." Stand in place of

Another word with this root is:

Destitute using the prefix de- "away" which as taken the meaning "abandoned/forsaken" Stand Away/Without

  • 1
    Are you saying that the ending is in fact '-stitute' rather than 'itute'? Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 21:59
  • 4
    I'm saying that statuere is a root, not a suffix. The words given originally came from latin words that modified the root word with prefixes, which have taken new meanings.
    – ghoppe
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 22:02
  • 1
    I'm not disagreeing with you. I would say that the prefixes are, con, pro, in, re, sub. This suggests that the ending we are discussing should not be '-itute' as suggested in the title and in the question but should instead be '-stitute'. Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 22:09
  • I agree. I suppose one could to correct the question, or point out misconceptions in the question in the answer. I chose the second path. :)
    – ghoppe
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 22:11
  • 2
    Minor niggle: the Indo-European root for ‘stand’ is normally reconstructed as *steh₂-, rather than *sta-. The presence of the laryngeal is evidenced, among other things, by the metathesis-aspiration in the derived instrument noun, *steh₂-tlo- > *ste-tʰlo- ‘a place where you stand things’, which gives Latin stabulum ‘stable (for horses)’; if it had been a simple *sta- in PIE, a stable would have been †staculum in Latin, so we’d be putting our horses up in stackles (or something like that). Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 22:23

The root is Latin Sta- re to stand.
stitu -ere is a iterative /frequentative form of the word. (thanks Janus Bahs Jacquet)

In the same way, repetitive is a reiterative form of repeto meaning to seek again and again.

-stitutio is the abstract noun form which gives us -stitution; and stitute is an English /possibly French back-formation to give the verb form. This verb form is used as a noun in the way that many verbs become nouns.

What the words have in common is that they are established by long practice.

  • 1
    What you call reiterative is—to my knowledge, at least—usually called simply the iterative (or sometimes frequentative). Are you using reiterative deliberately here? Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 22:28

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