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Thread: -ish

  1. #1
    Lenka is offline Senior Member
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    Default -ish

    What does the ending -ish mean?

    I will try to guess - could you correct my bad guesses, please?

    1. She's tallish. => she is very very tall

    2. He has brownish hair. => his hair is very brown (or?: The colour of his hair is quite weird... I think it's similar to brown.)

    3. He must be thirtyish. => he is about 30 years old

  2. #2
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    Default Re: -ish

    generally speaking, -ish ending means "something like", or "a version of", but it really depends on the context. It's like watering done the effect of the word. Tallish loosely means "not very tall, but taller than average"; brownish means "slightly brown"; thirtyish would suggest "about thirty".

    -ish ending cannot be used with any word. Well, actually it can be, but there's a degree ranging from perfectly grammatical to totally ungrammatical

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    Lenka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: -ish

    Thank you Mariner!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mariner View Post
    Tallish loosely means "not very tall, but taller than average"

    -ish ending cannot be used with any word. Well, actually it can be, but there's a degree ranging from perfectly grammatical to totally ungrammatical
    I just seems a little weird to me how a word (tallish) can explain both somebody who is not very tall and who is taller than average ... But it doesn't matter. Maybe I wouldn't understand it even if you translated in to ma mother language .

    As to the second part of your post... What do you mean? If I can understand it, you say "-ish ending can be used with no word", is that right?
    I dont understand it then - you have just explained the usage of three words with -ish... What do you mean?

  4. #4
    MikeNewYork's Avatar
    MikeNewYork is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: -ish

    Quote Originally Posted by Lenka View Post
    Thank you Mariner!



    I just seems a little weird to me how a word (tallish) can explain both somebody who is not very tall and who is taller than average ... But it doesn't matter. Maybe I wouldn't understand it even if you translated in to ma mother language .

    As to the second part of your post... What do you mean? If I can understand it, you say "-ish ending can be used with no word", is that right?
    I dont understand it then - you have just explained the usage of three words with -ish... What do you mean?
    "Ish" can mean "in the range of" or "moderately".

    tallish = moderately tall. It will never mean someone over 6 feet; it could mean 5' 9" to 6 feet in men and 5' 7" to 5' 9" in women. Remember, however, that tallness is relative.

    6:30-ish = about 6:30

    brownish hair = moderately brown, not dark brown.

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    Default Re: -ish

    Quote Originally Posted by Lenka View Post
    As to the second part of your post... What do you mean? If I can understand it, you say "-ish ending can be used with no word", is that right?
    I dont understand it then - you have just explained the usage of three words with -ish... What do you mean?
    No, I meant that you normally can't add -ish ending to all words. I meant that for some words it sounds less "okay" than others. For example, brownish sounds much more grammatical than lovingish

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    Lenka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: -ish

    Thanks

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    Default Re: -ish

    you normally can't add -ish ending to all words.
    And it's a pity. In fact there seem to be very few besides the colours and one has to know for sure whether the word exists.
    Can I say, for instance, palish, cheekish, meanish? I think not. In Russian I could make such words with nearly any qualitative adjective (the shorter the word, the better).
    Regards

  8. #8
    BobK's Avatar
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    Default Re: -ish

    Quote Originally Posted by Humble View Post
    And it's a pity. In fact there seem to be very few besides the colours and one has to know for sure whether the word exists.
    Can I say, for instance, palish, cheekish , meanish? I think not. In Russian I could make such words with nearly any qualitative adjective (the shorter the word, the better).
    Regards
    For cheeky and mean you could say a bit cheeky/mean , or rather on the cheeky/mean side. To add a bit to what Mariner and Mike have already said, when there's an obvious continuum (like tallness or darkness) you can append -ish; when there's no continuum, you can't ( pregnantish ); but there are lots of words in between, that can take -ish for special effect.

    Dr Jonathan Miller, when he was a student, used to crack a joke about himself:
    I'm not a practising Jew - just Jewish. The joke relied on the fact that Jew is one of those "definitely-not-ishable" words, although there is a quite different adjective "Jewish" (which has nothing to do with degree).

    b

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    Default Re: -ish

    Hi Lenka.
    I speak Polish and our languages are very similar, so perhaps I'll be able to picture it in terms of your mother tongue. Slavic languages also have a suffix to convey this specific meaning. For instance in Polish, it's "-awy", "-awa" or "-awe" (depending on the grammatical gender of a given adjective: male, female and neuter respectively).
    So by adding this to the adjective "stary" [old] (although not EVERY adjective can undergo this suffixation), you get "starawy" (kind of old; male), "zielony" [green] --> "zielonawy" (kind of green, greenish) etc.

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    Default Re: -ish

    Thanks, Bob.
    I'm not a practising Jew - just Jewish.

    A good pun. The same could be said with British and the like, I think.

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