Etymonline defines the suffix -red as a:

word-forming element meaning "condition or state of," Middle English, from Old English -rede, from ræden "condition, rule, reckoning," a suffixed form of ræd "to advise, rule" (see rede). Common in Old English, less so in Middle English but still active in word-formation.

The terms I can think of ending -red with the meaning suggested above are very few, such as hatred and kindred, but there are certainly a few more.

So in what sense is suffix -red still active? If it really is.

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    You are almost certainly misinterpreting what Etymonline says. Changing the word order clears things up: they are saying that the suffix was "less [common] but still active in word-formation in Middle English", not that the suffix was "less [common] in Middle English but is still active in word-formation [now]". This interpretation is the only one which makes sense given that they explicitly say that this is a Middle English suffix (so presumably it didn't occur to them that someone could interpret their ambiguous word order as saying that it is still productive now).
    – Pilcrow
    Apr 1 at 12:41
  • 1
    @Pilcrow - if that is the case just VTC the question.
    – user 66974
    Apr 1 at 12:46
  • 1
    The question is perfectly meaningful and has already been answered satisfactorily, so I see no reason to vote to close. I'm just pointing out that it was instigated by a misunderstanding.
    – Pilcrow
    Apr 1 at 13:12
  • Take care that "etymonline" is just a crappy web site someone threw together to make a few ad banner dollars.
    – Fattie
    Apr 1 at 23:55

2 Answers 2


The Etymonline link in your question says that suffix -red " is analogous to -hood, which has replaced it in brotherhood, neighborhood, etc.; it survives in about 25 words."

Wiktionary's list of words derived from -red consists of just 15 words, of which only two are common:

With the exception of cantred, and hundred which has appeared on this list inexplicably, all of these words are formed from the Old English suffix -reden. None of them were coined recently by any stretch of the imagination; in no way is it an 'active' suffix, as Etymonline claims. Dictionary.com even says that it was only "formerly used in the formation of nouns."

Modern coinages are generally formed with -hood, -dom, or -ship, never -red. This is presumably because kindred and hatred are the only words in common usage that were formed from this root- its rarity means that few people even know that it's actually a suffix, and nobody's going to coin a word using a suffix that they're not aware of.

This passage seems to hold the clue, but part of it's unfortunately cut off on Google Books. From the part of the book that is viewable online, the author says that the suffix was lost in the Middle English period. I can't see the whole argument, but she writes in the chapter's conclusion that "since a 'stronger' suffix had already existed for a long time, native -ness, formations with -reden were ousted by formations with -ness."

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    I wonder if it fell out of favor due to confusion with the -ed suffix for past participles. Even though the root word is a noun, this combines with verbification. So e.g. "brothered" could mean "became a brother".
    – Barmar
    Apr 1 at 15:20

Despite what Etymonline says, it is "no longer productive" (per Wiktionary). That page also provides several words with the -red suffix, of which only "hundred" is common nowadays besides the two words that you provided. (Despite what another answer says, "hundred" uses the same suffix, which carries the meaning "to reckon" and related meanings. But see M-W's note on etymology here, which discusses some uncertainty surrounding this suffix.)

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    The most recent such production may have been Sir Walter Scott's 1819 usage of cousinred in his Rob Roy, an intentional archaïsm e’en then, at II. xi. 237: “‘There is some cousin-red between us, doubtless,’ said the Baillie reluctantly.” There are a few other Scotian usages in the 19th Century, but it has for most intents and purposes gone the way of all things.
    – tchrist
    Apr 1 at 3:22
  • "Despite what another answer says, "hundred" uses the same suffix, which carries the meaning "to reckon" and related meanings" - any citation for this part? Apr 1 at 20:30
  • @KarlKnechtel I didn't want to go deeply into it since that's not what the question is really about, but Etymonline says: The second element is Proto-Germanic *rath "reckoning, number" (as in Gothic raþjo "a reckoning, account, number," garaþjan "to count;" from PIE root *re- "to reason, count"). Apr 1 at 22:12

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