"Lineage" (/ˈlɪn·i·ɪdʒ/) is equivalent to "line" + "-age". Other such nouns lose the "e" when this suffix is added:

Stem + Suffix = Noun
Anecdote + Age = Anecdotage
Cleave + Age = Cleavage
Dose + Age = Dosage
Store + Age = Storage
Use + Age = Usage

Why does "lineage" stray from this trend and retain the "e" after we add "-age"?

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    It's arguably not "silent". I think it's usually pronounced (from IPA) /ˈlɪn.i.ɪdʒ/ or /ˈli-nē-ij/ for MW. However, MW does say there is an alternative pronunciation /ˈli-nij /. That means the pronunciation you are used to hearing is probably from a specific geography. Feb 4, 2021 at 18:54
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    The Online Etymological Dictionary posits an influence from 'lineal'; this reference should be included. Feb 4, 2021 at 19:03
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    @Cascabel: This question is about spelling, not pronunciation. Feb 4, 2021 at 19:19
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    Any question about "silent letters" refers to spelling. Letters are all silent; they are visual symbols and make no noise. It's their interpretation that causes the "silent letter" questions. "How are /layn/ and /'lɪniədʒ/ related?" is about pronunciation. Feb 4, 2021 at 19:53
  • @Decapitated Soul re: Updatable/Updateable - No, that doesn’t answer my question. Normally the e is dropped when adding a suffix that begins with a vowel, so “updatable” would be the correct word. I guess my question is does line + -age = lineage. The suffix age starts with a vowel, so why keep the e? Feb 4, 2021 at 20:14

1 Answer 1


According to Etymonline the Middle English word was linage ("line of descent; an ancestor"), which came from the Old French lignage.

"The word altered in spelling and pronunciation in early Modern English, apparently by some combined influence of line (n.) and lineal."

I wonder if there was further influence from 'linear' (from the French linéaire) and 'lineal' (from the Old French 'lineal'!)

Perhaps there was also an acknowledgement that a phoneme in the OF lignage had been elided in ME.

  • Spelling something "gn" in French works out to spelling things "ñ" in Spanish or sometimes "ny" in English. See canyon and beignets. So it was poorly spelt in ME. :)
    – tchrist
    Feb 5, 2021 at 1:00
  • @tchrist: That's what I meant, yes: shoddy spelling by those ME guys :) and then a correction in the Tudor period, when most printing was done in London and English became more uniform. Feb 5, 2021 at 1:48
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    OED says: < Old French lignage, linage = Provençal linhatge, Spanish linaje, Portuguese linhagem, Italian lignaggio, legnaggio < Latin type *līneāticum (see -age suffix), < līnea line n.² The spelling lineage, which appears late in the 17th cent., is probably due to association with line n.²; the modern pronunciation is influenced by lineal or Latin līnea.
    – tchrist
    Feb 5, 2021 at 3:23

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