Why pointillism is not called instead pointism?

There is no such word as pointil or pointill in English (or French, where the pointillism comes from), nor -illism is a suffix.

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    There is a French word pointillé. – Neil W Nov 27 '16 at 7:40
  • @NeilW This should be the answer I think. :) – Bora M. Alper Nov 27 '16 at 8:02
  • 2
    How does this question show research effort? If you type "etymology pointillism" into Google, Google itself provides the correct answer as special result. – Kaz Nov 27 '16 at 16:42

Pointillism refers to a pictorial technique which became common at the end of the 19th century in France (Pointillisme) and Italy (Puntinismo). Its main characteristic was the use of small areas of colour to construct an image.

The term originates from French pointilles (small dots) from which Pointillisme.

  • the theory or practice in art of applying small strokes or dots of color to a surface so that from a distance they blend together


The term is of French origin:

  • 1901, from French pointillisme, from pointiller "to cover with pointilles," small dots, plural diminutive of point. Pointillist is attested from 1891, from French pointilliste.


Pointillist image

From: Wikipedia

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I think that pointillism qualifies as a loanword. There actually is a pointillisme in French, and you can confirm this by looking up the etymology.

What's a loanword? Here's the Merriam-Webster definition.


a word taken from another language and at least partly naturalized

According to the definition, a loanword can be partly naturalized (which I read as modified). Seeing how we have merely lopped off the final letter, I think this fits the bill.

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    I upvoted your answer because it was first to cover the ground. However, no offense, what you "think" is not relevant. You provide evidence that it is a 'loanword', so why not just say something like "Pointillism is a loanword from French. The etymology etc."? Also later, in "I think this fits the bill", it either does "fit the bill", and you can provide evidence it does, or it doesn't. The answers desired on ELU are authoritative, that is, supported or supportable with evidence. – JEL Nov 27 '16 at 11:30
  • Yep, same sentiments here but +1 for saying it's a "loanword" in any case. – Mari-Lou A Nov 27 '16 at 12:11
  • @JEL Okay, I'm partly convinced. But is there any policy you can point to which backs up this assertion? Perhaps a Meta thread? Has this issue been brought up in the past? – ktm5124 Nov 27 '16 at 18:58
  • @ktm5124, I suppose the assertion has to be owned by me (and to a lesser extent by the 4 who upvoted the comment and who may by that token be expressing agreement). There are circlings around, as in Questions should be answered as an expert would answer them: comprehensively, with explanation and context. Explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. I didn't mean to make heavy weather of it...just a suggestion prompted by me wondering why so few votes for you. – JEL Nov 29 '16 at 7:48
  • @JEL I see. Thanks for the suggestion. I definitely see your point. – ktm5124 Nov 29 '16 at 8:16

I would suggest that there is an element of onomatopoeia that influenced those who happened upon "Pointillism" to describe that painting style. Think of the act of holding a tiny brush and repetitively applying dots to a canvas...there is a repetitive "i" sound in the pronunciation of the word that has a sort of congruence with the action.

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