In the early Gmc. stage, such a deriv. as Goth. laisareis teacher, from *laisō LORE, became assoc. with laisjan teach, and was apprehended as its agent-noun; thus the model was provided for the universal application of the suffix to vb.-stems, as OE. bæcere baker, f. bacan, leornere learner, f. leornian, etc. Some Gmc. sbs. seem to be directly based on or suggested by L. agent-nouns formed on sbs.: e.g. OE. bōcere scribe = OHG. buochari, Goth. bokareis, f. *bōk- BOOK, after L. librārius copyist, scribe, f. liber book; direct formations on sbs. occur in OE., e.g. sangere singer, f. sang SONG, and continued to be made in ME. and later, e.g. docker, hatter, slater. OE. -ere, ME. -er(e) eventually became established as the universal suffix for new agent-nouns.
In ME. and later, -er was substituted for other suffixes or added superfluously to sbs. of which the endings did not obviously suggest their function; e.g. astrologer, astronomer superseded †astrologien, †astronomien; †cater, †fruiter, †sorcer were extended to caterer, fruiterer, sorcerer; prob, on the model of philosopher, derivs. of Gr. - L. words in -graphus, -logus assumed the forms -GRAPHER, -LOGER; an isolated instance is widower, in which -er provides a masculine counterpart to widow. A var. -ier is established in some occupational names, e.g. clothier, glazier, hosier; see -IER1.
The suffix occurs also in designations of natives or inhabitants, as Londoner, Britisher, New Zealander; so foreigner, islander, northerner, villager.
Some personal designations occur esp. as the fixed second el. of comps.; e.g. new-comer, on-looker, ironmonger, caretaker.
Many formations are applied almost exclusively to inanimate objects, as boiler, cracker, duster, poker, runner, stopper; (in pl. form mainly) clippers, dividers; articles of clothing are blazer, jumper, slipper; pl. drawers, trousers. There are many colloq. and sl. formations in which -er expresses ‘one’, as backhander, goner, header, sixfooter, ten-tonner. Akin to these are derogatory terms like blighter.
"-er." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/er-5
"-er." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved November 14, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/er-5
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.