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variant of -ward: towards; afterwards.
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Origin of -wards

Middle English; Old English -weardes, equivalent to -weard toward (see ward) + -es-s1

usage note for -wards

See -ward.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does -wards mean?

The suffixwards is used to mean “in the direction of,” either in time or space. It is often used in everyday and technical terms.

The form –wards comes from Old English –weardes, meaning “towards.”

What are variants of –wards?

The suffix –wards is more common in British English. In North American English, the variant –ward, as in toward, is more commonly used. Want to know more? Read our Words That Use article on ward.

Examples of -wards

One example of a word that features the suffix –wards is downwards, or downward, “from a higher to a lower place, level, etc.”

The first part of the word indicates the direction. In this case, down– means “from higher to lower.” The suffix –wards means “toward” or “in the direction of.” Downwards literally means “in the down direction.”

What are some words that use the equivalent of the combining form –wards in Middle or Old English?

What are some other forms that –wards may be commonly confused with?

Not every word that ends with the exact letters –ward or –wards, such as reward or coward, is necessarily using the combining form –ward to denote “direction.” Learn why coward means “lacking courage” at our entry for the word.

Break it down!

Given the meaning of the suffix –wards, what does upwards literally mean?

How to use -wards in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for -wards



suffix forming adverbs
indicating direction towardsa step backwards; to sail shorewards Compare -ward

Word Origin for -wards

Old English -weardes 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