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-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.