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Is there a use for the words skillfulness, lustiness, reproachfulness, greediness, allurement, angriness, brawniness, and sorrowfulness?

Each of these is in Merriam Webster without comment under the corresponding word without the -ment or -ness suffix.

Do these words communicate something that skill, lust, reproach, greed, allure, anger, brawn, and sorrow don't? "He demonstrated great skillfulness" seems merely a clunkier way of saying "He demonstrated great skill." Are there situations where the two forms have a useful distinction?

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The words are different indeed.

Consider skill versus skillfulness.

Let's have a look at the base word and both suffixes. We start with skill:

skill: The ability to do something well; expertise

The suffix -ful, when applied to nouns means:

-ful: full of

1.1Having the qualities of

The suffix -ness always describes a state of something:

-ness: Denoting a state or condition

So of course you can say both:

The ninja's most important skill is mastery of stealth. &

The ninja's most important ability is being skillful at stealth.

Both sentences are more or less the same, the second using and adjective where the first uses a noun. However you cannot say:

The ninja's most important skillfulness is mastery of stealth.

It would mean the the ninja's most important state of having a skill is mastery of stealth. That does not make sense. Thus, you can see, both nouns are not generally interchangeable.

That's also your answer, the nouns you ask about confer information about the state of something. Mostly the base nouns do this as well to a certain degree. The other way around does not work as I showed above. If the rest of your sentence doesn't fit if you are describing a state or condition of something don't use those words.

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Words are imprecise. There are ways in which these words can have different meanings.

You exhibit an amazing skill. (Something like woodworking, cooking, etc.)

You exhibit an amazing skillfulness. (A quality of having skill, not a particular skill.)

Don't offer me your reproach. (That negative thing you want to say, don't say it.)

Don't offer me your reproachfulness. (Your quality of negativeness, not a particular negative statement.)

So it seems in general the -ment or -ness words are about a general quality, and the base noun is or can be about a specific instance of it. (Though the base noun can be the generalized quality.)

An exception is lustiness, which is the state of being lusty (full of life and vigor), not the state of lust (desire). I'm also not seeing a meaning for brawn distinct from brawniness, either.

  • I don't think your second sentence is actually fitting. You don't learn the quality of having a skill. If you write achieve it would be a different story. – Helmar Aug 29 '16 at 12:18
  • I agree with Helmar; the second example doesn't work semantically. Still, an example where one word works and the other doesn't is useful to point out a difference between the words. Good catch on lustiness; the more suitable word to ask about would have been lustfulness. (Lusty can mean lustful, but as you point out, this is not its primary meaning.) – Targeloid Oct 4 '16 at 11:14
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Skillful is an adjective which modifies a noun or pronoun; skillfulness is a noun which can be used as a subject in a sentence, a direct object, a predicate nominative, etc.

For example,

He is very skillful at drawing with charcoal. [adjective, predicate adjective]

His skillfulness in using charcoal as an instrument of art is apparent to me. [noun, subject]

He skillfully and casually moves across the canvass to darken those areas needing the most charcoal. [adverb, modifies the verb "moves"]

So, what you do is look up the part of speech used as the main entry, and then with the other definitions for the same word, study what part of speech they are. This will determine how the words are used in sentences.

For another example:

angriness n.

She is angry about her grades. [adjective, predicate adjective]

She feels her angriness is justified by the fact she studied so hard. [noun, "...(that) her angriness is..." subject of a dependent clause]

A review of the eight parts of speech:

https://www.butte.edu/departments/cas/tipsheets/grammar/parts_of_speech.html

"He demonstrated great skillfulness" seems merely a clunkier way of saying "He demonstrated great skill."

Both are nouns. So what’s the difference?

You just said it.

This happens all the time with words; the right words in the not so right way; a popular definition is: awkward; another is redundant.

You would use “skillfulness” in one sentence to express an idea clearly, and “skill” in another to express a different idea.

He demonstrated great skill. I wonder how he got to be so skillful at what he does. It’s obvious that his skillfulness took many years to develop.

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Skill and skilfulness can often be used interchangeably ("He demonstrated great skilfulness" / "He demonstrated great skill"). But it seems worthwhile to me to reserve skill for skilful work on a particular occasion, and reserve skilfulness to describe the skilful attributes of a craftsperson / craft as measured against other skilful people / skilfully-made things. (So, in the example above I prefer "He demonstrated great skill").

A similar distinction can usefully be made for the other words listed in the OP.

Skill - Capability of accomplishing something with precision and certainty; practical knowledge in combination with ability; cleverness, expertness. Also, an ability to perform a function, acquired or learnt with practice (OED)

Skilful - Having practical ability; possessing skill; expert, dexterous, clever.

Skilfulness - The quality of being skilful.(OED)

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