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-s repr. OE. g. sg. -es of many m. and n. sbs., written 's, as boy's, horse's, lady's, with extension to certain pls., as men's; special cases are its use (1) as a euphem. repr. of God's in oaths, as 'sblood (XVI), 'sdeath (XVII), 'swounds (XVI; see ZOUNDS); (2) in the terminal el. -sman, the extensive use of which, as in craftsman, kinsman, spokesman, sportsman, tradesman, is a generalization of the combination found in OE. stēoresmann STEERSMAN, tūnesmann TOWNSMAN.

Identical with the inflexion of the g. sg. is the -s surviving in certain adv. forms, as always, needs, nowadays, -wards, -ways; the use is exemplified by such OE. advs. as dæġes by day, sōðes in truth, truly, þances voluntarily. There were also OE. advs. compounded with TO and a genitive, as tōġeġnes against, tōmiddes amidst, by the side of which were synon. onġeġn AGAIN, onmiddan AMID; hence there arose in ME. mixed forms such as aʒeines, amiddes; and -(e)s became generalized, as in -WARDS, -WAYS. In once, twice, thrice, hence, thence, whence, since, the suffix has been otherwise spelt in order to avoid the suggestion of pronunc. with Z which is associated with -ns, viz. nz. In AGAINST, AMIDST, AMONGST there is a parasitic t.

In the disjunctive prons. hers, ours, theirs, yours (ME. hires, etc.) the -s is presumably analogical after his.