4

I always misspell liquefy and it drives me nuts.

Solids will (or, I suppose, have) solidify but liquids apparently miss out on the chance to liquidify. Instead they have to liquefy I'm sure this is a simple English rule that I have forgotten from elementary school but I can't put my finger on it.

13

I don't think this is explained by any English rule. It's just based on etymology.

The spelling liquify actually exists as a variant.

In terms of etymology, the Latin source of liquefy is liquefacio, which is supposed to have been derived from compounding the verb liqueo with facio. A similarly formed (now obsolete in English) word is calefy, where the first part comes from the Latin verb caleo. Putrefy may also be analogous.

In contrast, the Latin ancestor of solid, the adjective solidus, has no corresponding verb *"soleo" or *"solideo" (an unrelated verb soleo "to be accustomed" exists). And the formation of the verb based on the adjective is supposed to have occurred in French, not in Latin: French solide + the French suffix -(i)fier made solidifier.

  • 1
    Okay, wow. I've always spelled it with an i and never known (or realized or recalled) that it is not only also spelled with an e but that the e version is its primary spelling. In thinking about it, I must have known of the e version—but simply translated it in my head back into the i version I personally use. I just looked it up in all of my regular dictionaries—and this is indeed correct. – Jason Bassford Feb 13 at 3:28
  • And I'd never known that there was any rationale behind this at all! I thought it was just another illustration of English spelling being neither phonetic nor logical. – nigel222 Feb 13 at 9:37
  • @JasonBassford I'd always spelled it with an 'i' as well. So I ran an Ngram analysis on the two spellings and, guess what, "liquify" is far more common except for a little blip from about 1890 to about 1918 when they were just about equal. I think we're on the winning side. – BoldBen Feb 13 at 10:13
  • @BoldBen: By default, the Google Ngram Viewer is sensitive to capitalization. If you compare "liquify" to "liquefy" (or do a case-insensitive comparison), the "e" spelling comes out ahead. – sumelic Feb 13 at 10:14
  • @sumelic Well done, I hadn't noticed the default capitalisation! – BoldBen Feb 13 at 11:38

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