views updated May 21 2018

-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.


views updated Jun 11 2018

-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.