There are a set of adjectives (many rarely used) that are all formed by the addition of -en or -n.
Is there a reason why certain words form these adjectives and where do they come from etymologically?


  • Wooden
  • Leaden
  • Leathern (p.23 A Tale of Two Cities)
  • Golden
  • Woolen
  • Oaken

1 Answer 1


This ending comes from the PIE adjectival suffix *-no-.

-en(2) Suffix added to nouns to produce adjectives meaning "made of, of the nature of" (such as golden, oaken, woolen), corresponding to Latin -anus, -inus, Greek -inos; from Proto-Germanic *-ina-, from PIE *-no-, adjectival suffix. Common in Old and Middle English (e.g. fyren "on fire; made of fire;" hunden "of dogs, canine"), the few surviving uses are largely discarded in everyday use, and the simple form of the noun doubles as adjective (gold ring, wool sweater). Some are used in special contexts (brazen, wooden).


Not to be confused with the verbal formation '-en' that forms darken and weaken

-en(1) Word-forming element making verbs (such as darken, weaken) from adjectives or nouns, from Old English -nian, from Proto-Germanic *-inojan (also source of Old Norse -na), from PIE adjectival suffix *-no-. Most active in Middle English.

  • 1
    Not to be confused with the verbal suffix, but historically the base from which it was derived. Also the same suffix as that seen in the past participles of strong verbs in -en (ridden, molten, gotten, etc.): both the *-tó- (= -ed) and -*nó- suffixes in PIE formed adjectives with the sense of passive participles from verbal stems. Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 8:17

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