What is the difference between nouns naming states of being or positions ending in -hood and those ending in -ship?

In practice, if one were neologizing such a word how would one decide which suffix to use?

Examples: Apprenticeship; proprietorship; friendship; childhood; falsehood; statehood

  • 4
    Don't forget -dom... all three of these have uses that are very difficult to distinguish.
    – Kosmonaut
    Dec 8 '10 at 23:00

If you're creating a neologism, I'd say go with the one that sounds the best.

The -hood suffix, to me, sounds more general and impersonal (or universal) while -ship sounds more personal. But that is entirely my own feeling.

Dictionary.com lists -hood as being "formerly used in the formation of nouns," so if you believe that means it isn't used anymore on new terms then that's an answer of a sort. But I think you're free to do what you wish. Hey, it's your word.

By the way, what's the word you want to create?

  • Actually they come up all the time and I am always at a loss as to which way to go.
    – WAF
    Dec 8 '10 at 23:32
  • Ummm, some examples?
    – Robusto
    Dec 9 '10 at 0:32
  • e.g. the term or state of being a judge; the state of being a potato; (and by far most frequent) the state of being a student.
    – WAF
    Dec 10 '10 at 19:31

-hood denotes a state of being. -ship denotes an occupation or capability. They're related, yes, but I don't see them as synonymous.

For example, while it's not a standard word, I can readily assign a meaning to apprenticehood: it's the state of being an apprentice. You serve an apprenticeship during your apprenticehood.

  • 2
    But apprenticeship also means your definition of apprenticehood.
    – Kosmonaut
    Dec 8 '10 at 23:06

Apprenticeship; proprietorship; friendship; childhood; falsehood; statehood

Using your examples it is seen that ship carries the connotation of status. One's status is that of an apprentice, proprietor, friend, and so on. As a mnemonic we could say that ship (as in cartaging or transporting) has commonality of derivation with the suffix, -ship, in that one is carried by (and, conversely, carries) one's status.

Childhood, falsehood, statehood, on the the other hand, harks back to hood as a kind of covering, cloak, or insignia. A pre-adult is "covered" by the state, the cloak, of being a child. A falsehood could be said to be the cover adopted in lieu of openness or honesty. Using those general guidelines for coining a "hoodship" (neologism) word that is not already taken should stand you in good stead, but with no guarantee that no overlap in ultimate meaning cannot be found.

  • testing server.
    – lex
    Nov 18 '12 at 19:17

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