Skip to main content
Select Source:

-ISM

-ISM. A noun-forming SUFFIX, three of whose uses relate to language: (1) Forming words for concepts, activities, and conditions: agrammatism, biculturalism, bilingualism, criticism, descriptivism, feminism, journalism, literary criticism, multiculturalism, obscurantism, plagiarism, prescriptivism, racism, sexism, symbolism. (2) Forming linguistic and stylistic terms: anachronism, aphorism, archaism, barbarism, classicism, colloquialism, dysphemism, euphemism initialism, malapropism, neologism, regionalism, solecism, syllogism, truism, verbalism, witticism. (3) Forming words that identify usages as belonging to particular varieties of English: Americanism, Anglicism, Australianism, Briticism, Canadianism, Gallicism, Indianism, Irishism, Latinism, New Zealandism, Scotticism.

The suffix is widely used with considerable freedom and flexibility to label any regional or local usage, such as a Newfoundlandism or a New Yorkism, and for nonce purposes, as in: Simon Hoggart's ‘Bushism of the week’, in the Observer magazine during 1989, referring to the usage of US President George Bush. When asked to comment on the fall of the Berlin Wall, Bush is reported to have said: ‘I wouldn't want to say this kind of development makes things to be moving too quickly at all … so I'm not going to hypothecate that it may—anything goes too fast’ (17 Dec. 1989). Compare -ESE, -SPEAK. See POLITICALLY CORRECT.

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

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"-ISM." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"-ISM." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ism

"-ISM." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Retrieved February 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ism

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

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

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • 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.

-ism

-ism repr. F. -isme, L. -ismus — Gr. -ismós, forming nouns of action for vbs. in -īzein -IZE, e.g. baptismós dipping, BAPTISM. A freq. use of -ismós was to express the sense of acting like or adopting the habits of a body of people, as Attikismós siding with Athenians, Attic fashion or idiom; so Ioudaïsmós Judaism, Khristianismós Christianity; on this model was formed medL. pāgānismus PAGANISM. In Eng. Judaism is recorded in XV, and from XVI formations with the suffix become numerous. The chief uses are: (1) to form a noun of action naming the process, the completed action, or its result, e.g. baptism, criticism, nepotism; (2) with emphasis on conduct or character, e.g. barbarism, heroism, patriotism; (3) forming the name of a system of theory or practice, e.g. Arianism, Catholicism, positivism, and (by extension) to designations of doctrines or principles, e.g. agnosticism, altruism, egotism, romanticism, universalism; (4) forming a term denoting a trait or peculiarity, as of language, e.g. Americanism, Gallicism, colloquialism; for (3) and (4) there is an extensive record of nonce-words. Adjectives of sbs. in -ism end in -ISTIC.
Hence ism form of theory, etc., such as may be designated by a word in -ism. XVII.

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

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"-ism." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"-ism." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/ism-2

"-ism." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved February 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/ism-2

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

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

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • 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.