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a suffix forming adjectives that have the general sense “possessing, full of” a given quality (covetous; glorious; nervous; wondrous); -ous, and its variant -ious, have often been used to Anglicize Latin adjectives with terminations that cannot be directly adapted into English (atrocious; contiguous; garrulous; obvious; stupendous). As an adjective-forming suffix of neutral value, it regularly Anglicizes Greek and Latin adjectives derived without suffix from nouns and verbs; many such formations are productive combining forms in English, sometimes with a corresponding nominal combining form that has no suffix;
a suffix forming adjectival correspondents to the names of chemical elements; specialized, in opposition to like adjectives ending in -ic, to mean the lower of two possible valences (stannous chloride, SnCl 2 , and stannic chloride SnCl 4).
Origin of -ous
Middle English < Anglo-French, Old French < Latin -ōsus; a doublet of -ose1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for -ous


having, full of, or characterized by: dangerous, spacious, languorous
(in chemistry) indicating that an element is chemically combined in the lower of two possible valency states: ferrous, stannous Compare -ic (sense 2)
Word Origin
from Old French, from Latin -ōsus or -us, Greek -os, adj suffixes
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for -ous

word-forming element making adjectives from nouns, meaning "having, full of, having to do with, doing, inclined to," from Old French -ous, -eux, from Latin -osus (cf. -ose (1)). In chemistry, "having a lower valence than forms expressed in -ic."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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-ous in Medicine

-ous suff.

  1. Possessing; full of; characterized by: filamentous.

  2. Having a valence lower than that of a specified element in compounds or ions named with adjectives ending in -ic: ferrous.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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