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Today I saw this word — hitherto — then I searched in the dictionary to find that it means "up until that time". It looks a little weird since my first seen, and I rarely see words ending with ‑to except to, auto and tomato which look more normal.

I found all words ending with to from here, but this site only says words ending with to are good for playing "Words with Friends" word game. Maybe because my native language is not English, I know almost nothing about all the words listed on that site, so I wonder if the ending ‑to has some common special meaning? If yes, it can help me to remember the words that end with to.

  • 1
    "What does the 'to' ending mean?" It means ... to. :) Explained in answer below. – Fattie Jan 20 '17 at 17:40
  • "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" – poepje Jan 20 '17 at 23:57
33

I’m not sure what you mean by asking what the meaning of words that end in -to is, because -to is not really an English suffix in the general case. As you note, it occurs in many words with no overlap in sense, like alto, auto, biscotto, burrito, canto, cornetto, ghetto, grotto, potato, lotto, magneto, mosquito, panto, photo, presto, recto, veto. Many of those derive from Latin or its children, but their -to has no meaning of its own.

Nonetheless, for your case of the adverb hitherto, there actually is something here behind it. Just as with adverbs like today, tonight, and tomorrow, the to part was originally part of a longer adverbial phrase involving a preposition that was originally worn down into a single word in examples like hereto, hereunto, hitherto, hitherunto, thereinto, thereonto, thereto, thereunto, thitherto, whereinto, whereto, whereunto, and whitherto.

In all those, to represents what was once the preposition to.

  • 3
    In some cases the -to (or more precise: the -o) in Latin resp. Italian based words comes from an ending of -us or -um, resp. -o: alt-o from Latin altus, cornett-o, from the Italian diminutive of corno etc. – Peter A. Schneider Jan 20 '17 at 12:57
  • This implies that, e.g. hereunto is a compound of "hereun to" when it is actually a compound of "here unto". In several of these words, to is really just part of unto, onto, or into. Not so bad with into or onto, which are themselves compounds of "in to" and "on to" respectively. But confusing with unto, which does not break into pieces. – Brythan Jan 21 '17 at 6:32
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A good test is to see whether you can break off the "to" and still have a valid word. In the case of "tomato" and similar words, you can't: "toma" isn't a word, so the "to" you broke off isn't either.

But "hither" is a word ("in this direction"), so the "to" is also. In combination they don't necessarily have a meaning that can be predicted from the meanings of their parts, but there's usually at least a distant relationship.

1

The answer is, it means "to".

Note that you can use "to" with times.

So, "I'm at work 9 to 5".

It's that simple.

"Hither" basically means "towards", "up to", "that side of".

"Hither to" just means "up to that time".

The "to" part simply means "to", as in "up to" or "through to" or "9 to 5".


As others have explained, there is no general case; it's not "a suffix".

  • Hereto, thereto, unto: it really is. – TimLymington Jan 20 '17 at 17:34
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    Hi Tim .. no big deal but just as TJL said, "To" is not a general case suffix; in most words it has no special meaning." For example, "day" is not a suffix, even though there are three or four compound-words (today, yesterday, etc). An actual suffix or prefix, you can run around adding hither and yon, and it works. "-to" is not a suffix. – Fattie Jan 20 '17 at 17:38
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"To" is not a general case suffix; in most words it has no special meaning.

The list you've found is for a specific strategy in Words with Friends/Scrabble. They recommend watching for words on that list because they're easy to expand on with two relatively common tiles, T and O.

To use your example word, if your opponent plays HITHER, you could add TO on the end and get HITHERTO. You would score the same points they did, plus a few extra because your word is longer, and only used two tiles to do it.

  • 1
    In this case, to is a suffix. As in thereto, etc. (see tchrists's answer for more); and more commonly, onto. – TonyK Jan 20 '17 at 14:00
  • I'm not sure the idea of simply appending "to" to something your opponent played is a good idea (except as a last resort). It's not like adding "s" where you can start a new word going in another direction; since you're adding two letters you're pretty much stuck with that... – A C Jan 20 '17 at 15:25
  • @AC I'm not saying it's a good strategy, a proper discussion of Scrabble tactics is very off-topic for this stack, it's just the one the original poster's linked list is meant to use. – T.J.L. Jan 20 '17 at 16:20
  • To the people with the down votes, I'd like to point out that (so far) none of the other answers address the source of the original poster's query. My answer is deliberately avoiding a frame change/challenge. – T.J.L. Jan 20 '17 at 16:22

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