The dictionary definition is

ten times as great or as much

I believe that this is a misnomer. The word seems to describe a process of folding something ten times; for example, a piece of paper. If you fold a piece of paper ten times you will get 210 or 1024 different rectangles.

I don't understand how the definition of this word came to be and how is it different from the phrase ten times?

  • 2
    It's the same as 'ten times', just another way of saying it.
    – Mitch
    Jan 30, 2012 at 5:00
  • 2
    Even if your assumption about the etymology were right (which it isn't: see @choster's answer), it would be irrelevant. A word means what it means, not what somebody thinks it ought to mean. Meanings do change (and it sometimes happens that different people use a word in inconsistent ways), but it is extremely rare that an individual is able to effect a change in the meaning of a word.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 31, 2012 at 0:28
  • Question assumes the only way to fold a piece of paper ten times is to double it each time. The folding of cloth, as the etymology suggests, refers to pleats.
    – MetaEd
    Sep 4, 2012 at 4:00

1 Answer 1


The suffix -fold is not in any way related to the word fold in modern English. It is a way of indicating a multiplicative product, except in the word manifold which is indefinitely numerous.

Etymonline says

-fold: multiplicative suffix, from O.E. -feald, related to O.N. -faldr; Ger. -falt; Goth. falþs; Gk. -paltos, -plos; L. -plus.

fold (v.): O.E. faldan (Mercian), fealdan (W.Saxon), transitive, "to bend cloth back over itself" …. Related: Folded; folding. The noun meaning "a bend or ply in anything" is mid-13c., from the verb.

  • 3
    On the contrary, they are related, but a long way back.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 31, 2012 at 0:31
  • 4
    Yes, both root and affix come from the PIE root *pel³, glossed as 'fold' in the AHD of PIE Roots. Any online etymology source that doesn't cite PIE roots isn't worth the electrons it's written in. Jan 31, 2012 at 15:52
  • Very well then, edited. I didn't realize this was Old EL&U :).
    – choster
    Feb 2, 2012 at 15:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

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