hydrocarbon suffix, from Greek name-forming element -ene. It has no real meaning in itself; in chemistry terminology probably abstracted from methylene (1834). Put in systematic use by Hofmann (1865).
word-forming element used in forming nouns from Latin words ending in -atus, -atum (such as estate, primate, senate). Those that came to English via French often arrived with -at, but an -e was added after c. 1400 to indicate the long vowel. The suffix also can mark adjectives formed from Latin past participles in -atus, -ata (such as desolate, moderate, separate); again, they often were adopted in Middle English as -at, with an -e appended after c. 1400.
instrumental word-forming element, the usual modern form of -el (1), a suffix originally used in Old English to form agent nouns.
agent or instrumental suffix, from Old French and French -ant, from Latin -antem, accusative of -ans, present-participle suffix of many Latin verbs. Compare -ance.
fem. suffix, from French -esse, from Late Latin -issa, from Greek -issa (cognate with Old English fem. agent suffix -icge); rare in classical Greek but more common later, in diakonissa "deaconess" and other Church terms picked up by Latin.
adjective and noun suffix, "having to do with, characterized by, tending to, place for," from Middle English -orie, from Old North French -ory, -orie (Old French -oir, -oire), from Latin -orius, -oria, -orium.
Latin adjectives in -orius, according to "An Etymological Dictionary of the French Language," tended to "indicate a quality proper to the action accomplished by the agent; as oratorius from orator; laudatorius from laudator. The neuter of these adjectives was early employed as a substantive, and usually denoted the place of residence of the agent or the instrument that he uses; as praetorium from praetor; dormitorium from dormitor; auditorium, dolatorium.
"These newer words, already frequent under the Empire, became exceedingly numerous at a later time, especially in ecclesiastical and scholastic Latin; as purgatorium, refectorium, laboratorium, observatorium, &c." [transl. G.W. Kitchin, Oxford, 1878]
word-forming element in legal English (and in imitation of it), representing the Anglo-French -é ending of past participles used as nouns (compare -y (3)). As these sometimes were coupled with agent nouns in -or, the two suffixes came to be used as a pair to denote the initiator and the recipient of an action.
Not to be confused with the French -ée that is a feminine noun ending (as in fiancée), which is from Latin -ata.
Old English -istre, from Proto-Germanic *-istrijon, feminine agent suffix used as the equivalent of masculine -ere (see -er (1)). Also used in Middle English to form nouns of action (meaning "a person who ...") without regard for gender.
The genderless agent noun use apparently was a broader application of the original feminine suffix, beginning in the north of England, but linguists disagree over whether this indicates female domination of weaving and baking trades, as represented in surnames such as Webster, Baxter, Brewster, etc. (though modern spinster probably carries an originally female ending).
Also compare whitester "one who bleaches cloth;" kempster (c. 1400; Halliwell has it as kembster) "woman who cleans wool." Chaucer ("Merchant's Tale") has chidester "an angry woman" (the 17c. had scoldster). Also compare Middle English shepster (late 14c.) "dressmaker, female cutter-out," literally "shapester," sleestere (mid-15c.) "murderess, female killer" ("slay-ster"). Sewster "seamstress" (Middle English seuestre, late 13c. as a surname, also used of men) is still in Jonson but was obsolete or provincial after 17c. In Modern English, the suffix has been productive in forming derivative nouns (gamester, roadster, punster, rodster "angler," etc.).
word-forming element meaning "one who does or makes," also used to indicate adherence to a certain doctrine or custom, from French -iste and directly from Latin -ista (source also of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian -ista), from Greek agent-noun ending -istes, which is from -is-, ending of the stem of verbs in -izein, + agential suffix -tes.
Variant -ister (as in chorister, barrister) is from Old French -istre, on false analogy of ministre. Variant -ista is from Spanish, popularized in American English 1970s by names of Latin-American revolutionary movements.