So, the "-ist" suffix is used to denote a person who is related to the word or word root that the "-ist" suffix is attached to (e.g. practicing that profession, adhering to that philosophy, etc.)

However, when you want to convert it into a noun that describes the pursuit that the "-ist" suffix person is engaged in, sometimes you use the "-ism" suffix, and sometimes you use the "-istry" suffix - a dentist is a person who engages in dentistry, a sophist is someone who engages in sophistry, a terrorist is someone who engages in terrorism, and an antagonist is someone who engages in antagonism.

Why do some of these words use the "-ism" suffix, and some use the "-istry" suffix? Is it something to do with the etymology of the word roots, is it some subtle grammatical or meaning difference, or is it just one of those inconsistent things that the English language does sometimes? I just tried looking on Google, and I can't find anything useful.

  • 1
  • 1
    I was tempted to down-vote because the question begins 'So, ...'. But I restrained myself. – Nigel J Dec 22 '17 at 18:10
  • 1
    Could you please show either some examples or some research and greatly preferably, both? – Robbie Goodwin Dec 22 '17 at 18:21
  • @RobbieGoodwin Was that comment directed at me? I did give some examples, in my question, and my research turned up nothing useful, which is why I was asking this question to begin with. – nick012000 Dec 22 '17 at 18:40
  • In that case, could you re-state your examples? I for one failed even to see, let alone understand them… – Robbie Goodwin Dec 22 '17 at 18:46

-istry should not be interpreted as a suffix itself, as it's both -ist and -ery.


1 : a distinctive doctrine, cause, or theory

2 : an oppressive and especially discriminatory attitude or belief


a suffix of nouns, often corresponding to verbs ending in -ize or nouns ending in -ism, that denote a person who practices or is concerned with something, or holds certain principles, doctrines, etc


a suffix of nouns denoting occupation, business, calling or condition, place or establishment, goods or products, things collectively, qualities, actions, etc.

To answer your question, the distinction would be that -ism would denote a system, or in the given "Terrorism" denotes some ideology. And -istry correspondingly an occupation.

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