0

Words ending in -icious seem to be almost entirely negative.

  • vicious
  • malicious
  • pernicious
  • avaricious
  • suspicious

I can think of "delicious" which doesn't follow the negative connotation pattern.

The -cious ending is pretty sibilant, which I know is generally associated with evil.

But I wonder if these words all have some common origin? Why are they so disproportionately negative?

6
  • 3
    Auspicious, judicious, meritricious.
    – Xanne
    Sep 13 '20 at 21:58
  • 2
    Delicious, propitious. Five and five.
    – Xanne
    Sep 13 '20 at 22:23
  • 1
    "Evil"? I think that's going a bit far. Also, suspicious seems a bit out of place in that list.
    – nnnnnn
    Sep 13 '20 at 22:58
  • Sorted transpicuously: appendicious, judicious, prejudicious, injudicious, deficious, maleficious, beneficious, veneficious, officious, inofficious, pontificious, artificious, inficious, licious, malicious, immalicious, babelicious, delicious, felicious, infelicious, cilicious, silicious, multiplicious, bootylicious, vermicious, pernicious, paroicious, extispicious, circumspicious, conspicious, auspicious, inauspicious, suspicious, avaricious, lubricious, capricious, matricious, pulveratricious, meretricious, obstetricious, politicious, recepticious, vicious, convicious, servicious.
    – tchrist
    Sep 13 '20 at 23:48
  • 1
    @tchrist It seems on closer reading that meretricious (so-spelled) actually belongs in the “negative” category, having to do, oddly enough, with prostitution. Meritricious was a typo.
    – Xanne
    Sep 14 '20 at 1:12
3

I think this is pretty much a coincidence.

The Latin suffix -osus approximately means "full of" (or -ful). There are a lot of -ful words in English that have negative meanings, such as painful, sinful, scornful, disdainful, mournful. But the negativity mainly comes from the meaning of the root, not the suffix.

In the case of vicious, malicious, pernicious, avaricious, suspicious, the consonants before -ious are not actually all the same in the Latin sources. They are from

  • vitium
  • malitia
  • pernicies
  • avaritia
  • suspicio/suspitio

The -it- in avaritia and malitia occurs in a common abstract noun ending in Latin: -itia. The other words just happen to be built on stems containing -it- or -ic-. Latin t and c both came to be pronounced the same way in this context in the varieties of Latin and French that English got the -ious adjectives from, but they were originally different consonants (although suspicio already showed variability in spelling in Latin).

As the comments mentioned, there are other positive -icious words than delicious such as auspicious, judicious.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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