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a combination of -man and -ship, used as an independent suffix with the meaning “skill in a particular activity, especially of a competitive nature”: brinkmanship; seamanship; one-upmanship; sometimes compounded with a plural noun by analogy with craftsmanship, marksmanship, sportsmanship, etc.
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Which of the following nouns has an irregular plural form?
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does -manship mean?

The combining form -manship is used like a suffix meaning “skill,” particularly in reference to activities that require a particular skill.

The form -manship comes from a combination of the forms -man and -ship. The form -man comes from Old English mann, which could refer to both an adult male and a human being in general. The form -ship is a suffix denoting a condition or character, from Old English -scipe.

In this way, -manship typically indicates the skill of a person in a particular activity.

Examples of -manship

Two common examples of words that use -manship are craftsmanship and penmanship. Despite the use of -man, such terms are not usually interpreted as gender-specific. However, the same may not be the case for the base word in such terms (the one that refers to a person). For example, swordsmanship is usually used without regard to the gender of the person who possesses the skill, but the word swordsman—though it can be used in a gender-neutral way—traditionally implies a man due to its ending. The same applies to the word craftsman. For this reason, some people may avoid using terms with -manship due to its potential implications.

Still, there are cases in which a word has taken on a meaning that goes beyond indicating a skill related to its base word. The word sportsmanship, for example, now most commonly refers not to skill as a sportsman, but to fair conduct and good-natured treatment of other competitors.

For more guidance, check out the Thesaurus.com guide to gender-neutral language.

What are some words that use the combining form -manship?

Break it down!

Given the meaning of -manship, what is seamanship? (Hint: you would expect a sailor to have it.)

How to use -manship in a sentence