0

This question already has an answer here:

The comparison in question isn't so much about Higher/Highest specifically, but why do we start with Good and not go to Gooder, Goodest?

Edit: I was flagged a duplicate despite previous searching. I think I got a more satisfactory answer than has been previously provided.

marked as duplicate by user140086, NVZ, curiousdannii, SGR, Mari-Lou A Jun 6 '16 at 17:24

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • Sure, I was hoping to get some more substantial etymology behind it other than "that's just the way it is". – atxdba Jun 5 '16 at 19:51
  • 1
    For the most part with language, the answer typically is "that's just the way it is", though in this case the largest influence is the irregularity born of super-common words. The more common and frequently-used a word is, the more likely it is to be irregular. – Dan Bron Jun 5 '16 at 22:12
  • A LOT of Indo-European languages use a different root for the comparative and superlative of "good", not just English. – Nihilist_Frost Jun 5 '16 at 23:45
3

The irregular origin of the comparative forms of "good" derive from the Germanic comparative terms of "bat" (improvement) as explained in the following extract from "The Word Detective":

Good:

  • Our modern word “good” is rooted in the Germanic word “gath,” meaning “to bring together” (which also gave us “gather” and “together”). The evolution of the adjective “good” seems to have progressed from “united” to “suitable” to “pleasing, favorable” to “good” in all the positive senses we have today.

  • as a noun was an outgrowth of its use as an adjective, and the earliest noun use of “good” was to mean very broadly “that which is good” or “goodness” itself (“They are reformed, full of good, … And fit for great employment,” Shakespeare, 1590). By around 1300, we were using “good” to mean “a desirable end or object,” and by the mid-15th century, we had narrowed that down to “commodities or merchandise.”

  • Life would be a bit simpler, especially for folks learning English, if the comparative and superlative forms of “good” conformed to the usual practice and appended “er” (“gooder”) and “est” (“goodest”) to the base word (as in “long,” “longer” and “longest”). But it’s too late now, because we’re stuck using the forms that went with the Germanic root “bat,” meaning “advantage or improvement.” Its comparative form was “batizon,” and its superlative was “batistaz,” which entered English as “betera” and “betest.” These were later smoothed out to “better” and “best” and adopted as the companions to “good,” which lacked its own comparative and superlative.

  • So what happened to that Germanic root “bat”? It doesn’t exist in English, but one of its descendants does, albeit a bit obscurely. The very old noun “boot,” meaning “advantage or benefit” is now nearly obsolete, but is still found in the expression “to boot,” meaning “in addition, added into the bargain” (“Bob got new glasses for just twenty bucks, and a free spare pair to boot”). Ideally, we probably should have been using “boot” instead of “good” for the past few centuries (giving us “boot,” “better” and “best”), but, as I said, it’s way too late now.

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