a native English suffix denoting spatial or temporal direction, as specified by the initial element: toward; seaward; afterward; backward.

Nearby words

  1. -virus,
  2. -visaged,
  3. -vora,
  4. -vore,
  5. -vorous,
  6. -wards,
  7. -ware,
  8. -watch,
  9. -ways,
  10. -wide

Also -wards.

Origin of -ward

Middle English; Old English -weard towards; cognate with German -wärts; akin to Latin vertere to turn (see verse)

Usage note

Both -ward and -wards occur in such words as backward, forward, upward, and toward. The -ward form is by far the more common in edited American English writing.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for -ward



(forming adjectives) indicating direction towardsa backward step; heavenward progress
(forming adverbs) a variant and the usual US and Canadian form of -wards

Word Origin for -ward

Old English -weard towards

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 -ward


adverbial suffix expressing direction, Old English -weard "toward," literally "turned toward," sometimes -weardes, with genitive singular ending of neuter adjectives, from Proto-Germanic *warth (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian -ward, Old Norse -verðr), variant of PIE *wert- "to turn, wind," from root *wer- (3) "to turn, bend" (see versus). The original notion is of "turned toward."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper