• synonyms


  1. a suffix used in forming nouns designating persons from the object of their occupation or labor (hatter; tiler; tinner; moonshiner), or from their place of origin or abode (Icelander; southerner; villager), or designating either persons or things from some special characteristic or circumstance (six-footer; three-master; teetotaler; fiver; tenner).
  2. a suffix serving as the regular English formative of agent nouns, being attached to verbs of any origin (bearer; creeper; employer; harvester; teacher; theorizer).
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Compare -ier1, -yer.

Origin of -er1

Middle English -er(e), a coalescence of Old English -ere agentive suffix (cognate with Old High German -āri, Gothic -areis < Germanic *-arjaz (> Slavic *-arĭ) < Latin -ārius -ary) and Old English -ware forming nouns of ethnic or residential orig. (as Rōmware Romans), cognate with Old High German -āri < Germanic *-warioz people


  1. a noun suffix occurring in loanwords from French in the Middle English period, most often names of occupations (archer; butcher; butler; carpenter; grocer; mariner; officer), but also other nouns (corner; danger; primer). Some historical instances of this suffix, as in banker or gardener, where the base is a recognizable modern English word, are now indistinguishable from denominal formations with -er1, as miller or potter.
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Origin of -er2

Middle English < Anglo-French -er, equivalent to Old French -er, -ier < Latin -ārius, -ārium. Cf. -ary, -eer, -ier2


  1. a termination of nouns denoting action or process: dinner; rejoinder; remainder; trover.
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Origin of -er3

< French, orig. infinitive suffix -er, -re


  1. a suffix regularly used in forming the comparative degree of adjectives: harder; smaller.
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Origin of -er4

Middle English -er(e), -re, Old English -ra, -re; cognate with German -er


  1. a suffix regularly used in forming the comparative degree of adverbs: faster.
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Origin of -er5

Middle English -er(e), -re, Old English -or; cognate with Old High German -or, German -er


  1. a formal element appearing in verbs having frequentative meaning: flicker; flutter; shiver; shudder.
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Origin of -er6

Middle English; Old English -r-; cognate with German -(e)r-


  1. a suffix that creates informal or jocular mutations of more neutral words, which are typically clipped to a single syllable if polysyllabic, before application of the suffix, and which sometimes undergo other phonetic alterations: bed-sitter; footer; fresher; rugger. Most words formed thus have been limited to English public-school and university slang; few, if any, have become current in North America, with the exception of soccer, which has also lost its earlier informal character.
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Compare -ers.

Origin of -er7

probably modeled on nonagentive uses of -er1; said to have first become current in University College, Oxford, 1875–80
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for -er


suffix forming nouns
  1. a person or thing that performs a specified actionreader; decanter; lighter
  2. a person engaged in a profession, occupation, etcwriter; baker; bootlegger
  3. a native or inhabitant ofislander; Londoner; villager
  4. a person or thing having a certain characteristicnewcomer; double-decker; fiver
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Word Origin

Old English -ere; related to German -er, Latin -ārius


  1. forming the comparative degree of adjectives (deeper, freer, sunnier, etc) and adverbs (faster, slower, etc)
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Word Origin

Old English -rd, -re (adj), -or (adv)
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 -er


English agent noun ending, corresponding to Latin -or. In native words it represents Old English -ere (Old Northumbrian also -are) "man who has to do with," from West Germanic *-ari (cf. German -er, Swedish -are, Danish -ere), from Proto-Germanic *-arjoz. Some believe this root is identical with, and perhaps a borrowing of, Latin -arius.

In words of Latin origin, verbs derived from pp. stems of Latin ones (including most verbs in -ate) usually take the Latin ending -or, as do Latin verbs that passed through French (e.g. governor), but there are many exceptions (eraser, laborer, promoter, deserter, sailor, bachelor), some of which were conformed from Latin to English in late Middle English.

The use of -or and -ee in legal language (e.g. lessor/lessee) to distinguish actors and recipients of action has given the -or ending a tinge of professionalism, and this makes it useful in doubling words that have both a professional and non-professional sense (e.g. advisor/adviser, conductor/conducter, incubator/incubater, elevator/elevater).

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comparative suffix, from Old English -ra (masc.), -re (fem., neuter), from Proto-Germanic *-izon, *-ozon (cf. Gothic -iza, Old Saxon -iro, Old Norse -ri, Old High German -iro, German -er), originally also with umlaut change in stem, but this was mostly lost in Old English by historical times and has now vanished (except in better and elder).

For most comparatives of one or two syllables, use of -er seems to be fading as the oral element in our society relies on more before adjectives to express the comparative; thus prettier is more pretty, cooler is more cool [Barnhart].
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suffix used to make jocular or familiar formations from common or proper names (soccer being one), first attested 1860s, English schoolboy slang, "Introduced from Rugby School into Oxford University slang, orig. at University College, in Michaelmas Term, 1875" [OED, with unusual precision].

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper