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  1. a native English suffix of adjectives meaning “characterized by or inclined to” the substance or action of the word or stem to which the suffix is attached: juicy; grouchy; rumbly; dreamy. Sometimes used to mean “allowing, fostering, or bringing about” the specified action: sippy.
Also -ey1.

Origin of -y1

Old English -ig; cognate with German -ig; compare perhaps Latin -icus, Greek -ikos


  1. a noun-forming suffix with a variety of functions in contemporary English, added to monosyllabic bases to create words that are almost always informal. Its earliest use, probably still productive, was to form endearing or familiar names or common nouns from personal names, other nouns, and adjectives (Billy; Susie; birdie; doggie; granny; sweetie; tummy). The hypocoristic feature is absent in recent coinages, however, which are simply informal and sometimes pejorative (boonies; cabby; groupie; hippy; looie; Okie; preemie; preppy; rookie). Another function of -y2 (-ie) is to form from adjectives nouns that denote exemplary or extreme instances of the quality named by the adjective (baddie; biggie; cheapie; toughie), sometimes focusing on a restricted, usually unfavorable sense of the adjective (sharpie; sickie; whitey). A few words in which the informal character of -y2 (-ie) has been lost are now standard in formal written English (goalie; movie).
Also -ie.
Compare -o, -sy.

Origin of -y2

late Middle English (Scots), orig. in names; of uncertain origin; baby and puppy, now felt as having this suffix, may be of different derivation


  1. a suffix of various origins used in the formation of action nouns from verbs (inquiry), also found in other abstract nouns: carpentry; infamy.

Origin of -y3

representing Latin -ia, -ium; Greek -ia, -eia, -ion; French -ie; German -ie
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for -y



suffix forming adjectives
  1. (from nouns) characterized by; consisting of; filled with; relating to; resemblingsunny; sandy; smoky; classy
  2. (from verbs) tending to; acting or existing as specifiedleaky; shiny

Word Origin

from Old English -ig, -ǣg


-ie or -ey

suffix informal
  1. denoting smallness and expressing affection and familiaritya doggy; a granny; Jamie
  2. a person or thing concerned with or characterized by beinga groupie; a fatty

Word Origin

C14: from Scottish -ie, -y, familiar suffix occurring originally in names, as in Jamie (James)


suffix forming nouns
  1. (from verbs) indicating the act of doing what is indicated by the verbal elementinquiry
  2. (esp with combining forms of Greek, Latin, or French origin) indicating state, condition, or qualitygeography; jealousy

Word Origin

from Old French -ie, from Latin -ia
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for -y


suffix in pet proper names (e.g. Johnny, Kitty), first recorded in Scottish, c.1400; became frequent in English 15c.-16c. Extension to surnames seems to date from c.1940. Use with common nouns seems to have begun in Scottish with laddie (1546) and become popular in English due to Burns' poems, but the same formation appears to be represented much earlier in baby and puppy.


noun suffix, in army, city, country, etc., from Old French -e, Latin -atus, -atum, pp. suffix of verbs of the first conjugation. In victory, history, etc. it represents Latin -ia, Greek -ia.


adjective suffix, "full of or characterized by," from Old English -ig, from Proto-Germanic *-iga (cf. German -ig), cognate with Greek -ikos, Latin -icus.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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