Fixture is defined in the LEXICO Dictionary as:

A piece of equipment or furniture which is fixed in position in a building or vehicle.

Here're a couple examples from the dictionary:

Cathedral ceilings, antique light fixtures and furniture that looked as though it had come straight from the twenties.

During assembly, the glass is first positioned in a fixture with several sensors around the sunroof.

So, fixture seems to be a count-noun, albeit usually used in the plural.

But as its definition indicates, fixture is similar in meaning to such mass nouns as equipment and furniture in that it encompasses different objects with different shapes and functions that can be subsumed under a single category. And I thought this kind of special meaning was the very reason for treating equipment and furniture as a mass noun, so I was wondering how fixture is treated as not a mass noun but a count noun.

Is there anything with fixture that distinguishes it from the equipment/ furniture types of mass nouns that makes it a count noun?

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    It says a piece of equipment or furniture...
    – Jim
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 2:36
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    Because English.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 2:36
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    @listeneva - A fixture is a thing that hold something. It is inherently singular while furniture and equipment are inherently plural. A light fixture holds a lightbulb. A work fixture holds a piece of work. I think it is not usually used in the plural any more than apple/apples. I ate an apple, I bought some apples. I installed a light fixture, I replaced all my bathroom fixtures. As far as definitions go, when I look up tree I get: a woody perennial plant. When I look up house I get: a building for human habitation. They all start with a.
    – Jim
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 19:48
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    If there's only a single piece, it would seem to me, to be more logical to call it by its full name, e.g. armchair, sofa, bed, cupboard etc.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 11:54
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    I suspect this is a non-question but it occurs to be that furniture comes from to furnish, which implies obtaining / arranging a number of items in a room etc, whereas fixture comes from to affix, which means to take something and attach it in a more or less permanent manner, so that it becomes part of the property - so the verbs from which these nouns derive differ in that one is essentially collective and the other is essentially individual. It's not surprising if that difference finds its way through to the nominalised forms.
    – JD2000
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 13:19

2 Answers 2


On pages 214-5 of the Google book "The Oxford Reference Guide to English Morphology" the authors Laurie Bauer, Rochelle Lieber, and Ingo Plag classify "fixture" to be a word:

"with lexicalized meanings (that) are likelier than non-lexicalized forms to have only the count reading."

Lexicalization or lexicalisation is defined in linguistics and British English (since this is coming from the Oxford Dictionary) as

to form (a word or lexeme) or (of a word or lexeme) to be formed from constituent morphemes, words, or lexemes, as to form cannot from can and not

In the context of "Count vs mass interpretation", a generalization is made between words that have been thoroughly lexicalized as more commonly used as COUNT nouns. In contrast, those that have NOT been lexicalized (or have less lexicalization) are more commonly used as NON-COUNT nouns.

Here is an image of what I found in Google Books

![The Oxford Reference Guide to English Morphology

Furniture in contrast in the same book is described as a non-count because it is a substance

"treated as undifferentiated (milk, oxygen), abstractions (truth), or aggregates of items, either uniform (rice) or variable (furniture) whose boundaries are not conceptually salient."

Here is an image from pages 124-5 of the same text in Google Books:

The Oxford Reference Guide to English Morphology

  • 2
    This gives the well-supported answer “because fixture has been lexicalized” but that immediately begs the question “why has it been lexicalized?”. I suspect all roads lead to the flippant answer given by @Hot Licks - “Because English”! Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 23:04
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    @listeneva I defined a lexeme as per British English and Linguistics, which I believe it is referring to. Hope that helps. It may muddy the water some, but basically fix- is one lexeme and -ture is another.
    – Karlomanio
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 15:33
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    @Karlomanio So you're saying that fixture is formed from fix- and -ture. Now, can you not argue that furniture is formed from furni- and -ture?
    – listeneva
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 0:54
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    You seem to be under the impression that lexicalize were chiefly Brittish English. It is not exclusively Brittish. It's just technical jargon.
    – vectory
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 4:10
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    @listeneva One more point. These are all generalizations. Not anything specifically right or wrong. The Oxford dictionary uses terms as "somewhat likelier" indicating that even though you may have a thoroughly lexicalized word, it may not follow the rule they just described. There are always exceptions in every language that don't follow the generalizations (i.e. "because English"). This book and this answer only provides a framework, not a black and white yes-no answer. That is what I interpreted the questioner to want.
    – Karlomanio
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 17:08

Probably influenced by Fixstar "fixed star" (cp Ger Fixstern; En fixpoint vs floating point). A single fixed star is of course useless. The mythological importance of this should not be understated, if *ster- (cp e.g. Ger starr "rigid") pretty much means fixed for a couple milenia now, though it can't be conclusively linked to *Hestr- "star".

Other than that, French shows a lot of plural usage for furnitures as well as denoting deverbal abstracta, which might be confusing if they elide the plural inflection regularly, as much as article inflection in colloquial speach (l'furtniture[s]), though I I'm not sure that was the case when English borrowed it from Middle French.

  • 2
    I'd suggest you proof-read your post.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 0:52
  • Aye, it's terrible, and typing on mobile is only a weak excuse. But that's the least problem with this post.
    – vectory
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 1:04
  • Who said those were the same suffixes? I didn't. Frankly, I don't even care. Given the observation that the countability of a word can change over time, why would the original/historical form of a suffix even matter in answering the question?
    – listeneva
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 1:22
  • Oh, OK, had to change my answer because I hadn't properly read the question before
    – vectory
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 3:59

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