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   Chapter 7 In this particular the native endings have been largely supplanted by foreign suffixes.

An English Grammar By William Malone Baskervill Characters: 1551

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Native suffixes.

The native suffixes to indicate the feminine were -en and -ster. These remain in vixen and spinster, though both words have lost their original meanings.

The word vixen was once used as the feminine of fox by the Southern-English. For fox they said vox; for from they said vram; and for the older word fat they said vat, as in wine vat. Hence vixen is for fyxen, from the masculine fox.

Spinster is a relic of a large class of words that existed in Old and Middle English,[1] but have now lost their original force as feminines. The old masculine answering to spinster was spinner; but spinster has now no connection with it.

The foreign suffixes are of two kinds:-

Foreign suffixes. Unaltered and little used.

(1) Those belonging to borrowe

d words, as czarina, se?orita, executrix, donna. These are attached to foreign words, and are never used for words recognized as English.

Slightly changed and widely used.

(2) That regarded as the standard or regular termination of the feminine, -ess (French esse, Low Latin issa), the one most used. The corresponding masculine may have the ending -er (-or), but in most cases it has not. Whenever we adopt a new masculine word, the feminine is formed by adding this termination -ess.

Sometimes the -ess has been added to a word already feminine by the ending -ster; as seam-str-ess, song-str-ess. The ending -ster had then lost its force as a feminine suffix; it has none now in the words huckster, gamester, trickster, punster.

Ending of masculine not changed.

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