Skip to main content


-ish1 suffix forming adjs.: OE. -isċ = OS., OHG. -isc (Du., G. -isch), ON. -iskr, Goth. -isks :- Gmc. *-iskaz = Gr. dim. suffix -iskos; in some words reduced to -sh, with a var. -ch; in Sc. usu, -is, with reduced vars. -s, -ce. Words of old formation are ENGLISH, SCOTS (see SCOTTISH, SCOTCH), WELSH, FRENCH. Formations in OE. on common nouns are ċeorlisċ churlish, ċildisċ childish, hǣðenisċ heathenish, ūtlendisċ foreign; their number was greatly increased in ME., at first with the uncoloured meaning of ‘pert., to or of the nature of’, but later chiefly on dyslogistic words, as boorish, foolish, shrewish, or with the derogatory force ‘having the bad or unpleasant qualities of’, as babyish, selfish, womanish.

From XIV onwards -ish was added to adjs. with the sense ‘approaching the quality of, somewhat, rather’, first to adjs. of colour, as blueish, greenish, reddish, but later to any (esp. monosyllabic) adjs., as softish. This use has been extended in XX to the qualification of hours of the day or numbers of years, as four-ish, 1940-ish. Endings of other origin have been assim. to -ish in, e.g., lavish, squeamish.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"-ish." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . 26 Jun. 2019 <>.

"-ish." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . (June 26, 2019).

"-ish." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved June 26, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles 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, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use 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 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.