multiplicative word-forming element attached to numerals, from Old English -feald, Northumbrian -fald, from Proto-Germanic *-falda- (cognates: Old Saxon -fald, Old Frisian -fald, Old Norse -faldr, Dutch -voud, German -falt, Gothic falþs), combining form of *falthan, from PIE *polt-, extended form of root *pel- (2) "to fold."
The same root yielded fold (v.) and perhaps also Greek -ploid, -plos and Latin -plus (see -plus). Native words with it have been crowded out by Latinate double, triple, etc., but it persists in manifold, hundredfold, etc.
It also appears in Romanic words from Latin that have been borrowed into English, such as opera, plaza, armada. It figures in scientific names coined in Modern Latin (amoeba, soda, magnolia, etc.) and is common in geographical names formed according to Latin or Greek models (Asia, Africa, America, Arabia, Florida, etc.)
In English it marks sex only in personal names (Julia, Maria, Alberta) and in a few words from Italian or Spanish where a corresponding male form also is in use (donna, senora).