How far can we carry the -ish morphism?


Ok so I know a similar(ish) question has been asked before.


I thought that -ish adds the sense of like, similar to, approximately, etc. From which, it would seem the threshold would be the tautologies like-ish / similar-ish.

The question is about the particular modification that -ish makes to a word, unlike other suffixes: like, similar to, etc.

  • 'morphism'? What do you mean by that?
    – Mitch
    Feb 21, 2012 at 13:20
  • 1
    @Mitch You got me there. While there should be no issue about what really I mean by it, the issue is what is the right word there. So in a way, I was expecting someone to catch me on that and correct me. Any help?
    – Kris
    Feb 22, 2012 at 6:13
  • I'd think 'suffix' is enough.
    – Mitch
    Feb 22, 2012 at 12:16
  • 1
    Yes, I'd think so, too.
    – Kris
    Feb 22, 2012 at 12:21

3 Answers 3


To me personally (I am not a native speaker but use ish frequently) ish sounds contrived with the word similar. To me, ish means more or less, but a more or less similar question feels like a pleonasm to me. I would use similar on its own or fairly similar rather than similar-ish

So my answer is "an ish too far" ;)

  • Yes, I finally realised that and gave my take on it. See update
    – mplungjan
    Feb 21, 2012 at 9:46
  • 1
    What about "a somewhat similar question". That does not feel pleonasmish to me, does it to you?
    – JeffSahol
    Feb 21, 2012 at 14:36
  • Somewhat/fairly same old same old. No problem at all
    – mplungjan
    Feb 21, 2012 at 15:11

Where you use -ish is, like many language choices, a matter of judgement, depending on what you're saying, who you're saying it to and how you're saying it. If I heard similarish, I would assume that the speaker was not being entirely serious, just seriousish.

  • 1
    Entirely agreed. You didn't touch upon the fact that 'ish' is different from other morphisms, though.
    – Kris
    Feb 21, 2012 at 8:03
  • 4
    @Kris: Did you ask us to? Incidentally, it’s perhaps worth repeating the comment made by the British writer and performer, Jonathan Miller: 'I'm not really a Jew; just Jew-ish, not the whole hog.' Feb 21, 2012 at 8:26
  • "How far can we carry the -ish morphism?"
    – Kris
    Feb 21, 2012 at 8:47
  • 1
    @Kris: As far as you like if it suits you communicative purpose. Feb 21, 2012 at 11:48

The (ish) suffix - with brackets, or similar to separate it from the mai word - has become popular over the last few years, in ways that are not necessarily grammatically valid. It means that the preceding word is not to be taken as precisely as it otherwise would be. In fact, it can be used over entire phrases:

I would agree with that - ish.

So how far can it go? As far as you like-ish. As far as it continues to make sense to the reader/listener. I have heard phrases like “a bit ishy” which is a whole new ball-game.

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