word-ending that sometimes distinguish British from American English. In the U.S., the change from -re to -er (to match pronunciation) in words such as fibre, centre, theatre began in late 18c. and became standard there over the next 25 years at the urging of Noah Webster (the 1804 edition of his speller, and especially his 1806 dictionary). The -re spelling, like -our, however, had the authority of Johnson's dictionary behind it and was unmoved in Britain, where it came to be a point of national pride, contra the Yankees.
Despite Webster's efforts, -re was retained in words with -c- or -g- (such as ogre, acre, the latter of which Webster insisted to the end of his days ought to be aker, and it was so printed in editions of the dictionary during his lifetime). The -re spelling generally is more justified by conservative etymology, based on French antecedents. It is met today in the U.S. only in Theatre as an element in the proper names of entertainment showplaces, where it is perhaps felt to inspire a perception of bon ton.
Old English -ing, patronymic suffix (denoting common origin); surviving in place names (Birmingham, Nottingham) where it denotes "tribe, community."
compound adjectival word-forming element, usually interchangeable with -ic but sometimes with specialized sense (such as historic/historical, politic/political), Middle English, from Late Latin -icalis, from Latin -icus + -alis (see -al (1)). Probably it was needed because the forms in -ic often took on a noun sense (for example physic). Forms in -ical tend to be attested earlier in English than their twins in -ic.
word-forming element in medicine denoting "diseases characterized by inflammation" (of the specified part), Modern Latin, from Greek -itis, feminine of adjectival suffix -ites "pertaining to." Feminine because it was used with an implied nosos "disease," a feminine noun; especially in arthritis (nosos) "(disease) of the joints." Arthritis (16c.) was one of the earliest appearances of the suffix in English and from it the suffix was abstracted in other uses.
word-forming element making nouns implying a practice, system, doctrine, etc., from French -isme or directly from Latin -isma, -ismus (source also of Italian, Spanish -ismo, Dutch, German -ismus), from Greek -ismos, noun ending signifying the practice or teaching of a thing, from the stem of verbs in -izein, a verb-forming element denoting the doing of the noun or adjective to which it is attached. For distinction of use, see -ity. The related Greek suffix -isma(t)- affects some forms.
plural suffix sometimes preserved in English for words from Latin, it is the Latin plural of nouns of the second declension (such as focus/foci, radius/radii).
also -in, adjectival word-forming element, Middle English, from Old French -in/-ine, or directly from Latin suffix -inus/-ina/-inum "of, like," forming adjectives and derived nouns, as in divinus, feminus, caninus; from PIE adjectival suffix *-no- (see -en (2)).
The Latin suffix is cognate with Greek -inos/-ine/-inon, and in some modern scientific words the element is from Greek. Added to names, it meant "of or pertaining to, of the nature of" (Florentinus), and so it also was commonly used in forming Roman proper names, originally appellatives (Augustinus, Constantinus, Justinus, etc.) and its descendants in Romanic languages continued active in name-forming. The Latin fem. form, -ina, was used in forming abstracts (doctrina, medicina). Relics of the attempt to continue a distinction between Latin -ina and -inus account for the English hesitation in spelling between -in and -ine.
before vowels mult-, word-forming element meaning "many, many times, much," from combining form of Latin multus "much, many," from PIE *ml-to-, from root *mel- (2) "strong, great, numerous." It was much-used in forming Latin compounds in classical times and after (such as multianimis "having much courage," multibibus "much-drinking," multicomus "having much hair," multiloquus "talkative"). Many English words that use it (multinational, etc.) are 20c. coinages.
chemical suffix used in forming names of radicals, from French -yle, from Greek hylē "wood," also "building stuff, raw material" (from which something is made), of unknown origin. The use in chemistry traces to the latter sense (except in methylene, where it means "wood").
It was introduced into chemical nomenclature by Liebig and Wohler when, in 1832, they used the term benzoyle for the radical which appeared to be the "essential material" of benzoic acid and related compounds. [Flood]
word-forming element of Greek origin appended to nouns and denoting collective numerals (triad, Olympiad) and fem. patronymics (Dryad, Naiad, also, in plural, Pleiades, Hyades), thence also plant family names; from Greek -as (genitive -ados), fem. suffix equivalent to -is.
From its use in Iliad (literally "of Ilion," that is, "Troy;" from Ilias poiesis or oidos "poem of Ilion," the accompanying noun being feminine, hence the termination) it has formed titles of poems in imitation of it (Columbiad, Dunciad).