suffix forming nouns, esp. denoting:
1 an action or its result (baptism; organism).
2 a system, principle, or ideological movement (Conservatism; jingoism; feminism).
3 a state or quality (heroism; barbarism).
4 a basis of prejudice or discrimination (racism; sexism).
5 a peculiarity in language (Americanism).
6 a pathological condition (alcoholism; Parkinsonism).
Etymology: from or after F -isme f. L -ismus f. Gk -ismos or -isma f. -izo -IZE

* * *

-ism, suffix
repr. F. -isme, L. -ismus, a. Gr. -ισµός, forming nouns of action from verbs in -ίζειν, e.g. βαπτίζειν to dip, baptize, βαπτισµός the action of dipping, baptism. An allied suffix was -ισµα(τ-), which more strictly expressed the finished act or thing done, and which in some cases is the source of modern -ism.
Besides its free use as a suffix forming vbs. on ordinary ns. and adjs., -ίζειν was (as mentioned under -ize) affixed to national names, with the sense to act or ‘play’ the people in question, and hence to act like, do after the manner of, practise the habits, customs, or language of, side with or adhere to the party of, those people. Hence the n. in -ισµός had the sense of acting or doing like, siding with, adhesion to, or speaking like the people in question; e.g. ἀττικίζειν to Atticize, to side with the Athenians, to use the Attic dialect; hence ἀττικισµός, Atticism, a siding with Athens, Attic style of language, etc. The LXX (Esther viii. 17) and N.T. have Ἰουδαίζειν to Judaize, to live like the Jews. The derivative Ἰουδαισµός Judaism, the manner of the Jews, occurs in the LXX (2 Macc. ii. 21). The Latin Jūdaismus occurs in Tertullian (c 200); Jūdaizāre in the Vulgate. Origen (a 250) has Χριστιανίζειν to play the Christian, act the part of a Christian, practise Christian principles, and Justin Martyr (a 150) has Χριστιανισµός the practice of Christians, Christianity. Hence late L. chrīstiānizāre in Tertullian, chrīstiānismus in Tertullian, Augustine and Jerome. On the type of these, -ισµός, -ismus, became the ordinary ending to form names of religious, ecclesiastical, or philosophical systems; thus pāgānismus is cited by Du Cange from a council of 744. The OF. repr. of this, paienisme, paienime, painime (12th c.) is prob. the earliest Fr. example, and appears in Eng. as painime, painim in the 13th c. But, in the modern form and sense, Judaisme is found a 1500, and christianisme (a 1500 in Fr.) c 1525 in Eng. From the 16th c. such formations are numerous.
The following are the chief uses of the suffix:
1. Forming a simple noun of action (usually accompanying a vb. in -ize), naming the process, or the completed action, or its result (rarely concrete); as in agonism, aphorism, baptism, criticism, embolism, exorcism, magnetism, mechanism, nepotism, organism, plagiarism, ostracism, syllogism, synchronism, volcanism. To this group in Gr. belonged asterism.
b. Applied to these, though with affinities to 2, are words in which -ism expresses the action or conduct of a class of persons, as heroism, patriotism, despotism, and the more colloquial blackguardism, busybodyism, desperadoism, priggism, scoundrelism; also the condition of a person or thing, as barbarism, deaf-mutism, orphanism, anomalism, mediævalism, parallelism; also Daltonism; with such nonce-words as bar-maidism, old maidism; all-roundism, cleverism, devil-may-care-ism, well-to-do-ism.
2. Forming the name of a system of theory or practice, religious, ecclesiastical, philosophical, political, social, etc., sometimes founded on the name of its subject or object, sometimes on that of its founder. Such are Alexandrianism, Arianism, Arminianism, Brahmanism, Buddhism, Calvinism, Catholicism, Chartism, Christianism, Congregationalism, Conservatism, Epicureanism, Judaism (a 1500), Latitudinarianism, Liberalism, Machiavellism, Muhammadanism, Platonism, Positivism, Presbyterianism, Protestantism, Puritanism, Puseyism, Quakerism, Quietism, Radicalism, Ritualism, Romanism, Socinianism, Taoism, Toryism, Wesleyanism, Whiggism.
These pass into terms of more or less temporary currency, as Berkeleyism, Fourierism, Jeremy Benthamism, Layardism, Owenism, St. Simonism; with nonce-words formed ad libitum, as John Bullism, Robert Elsmerism, Mahdiism; and others designating the cult of a person or family, as Bonapartism, Boulangism, Bronteism, Gladstonism, -onianism, Salisburyism, Stuartism, etc.
These lead the way to nonce-formations of many kinds, often humorous, of which the following are specimens, chiefly from newspapers: anti-slaveryism, anti-state-churchism, anti-whole-hogism, can't-help-myself-ism, know-nothingism, Little-Peddlingtonism, L.S. Deism (after deism), nothing-arianism, 19th-century-ism, other-ism, P.R. B-ism, Primrose-leaguism, red-tapeism, Rule-Britanniaism, self-ism.
3. Forming a term denoting a peculiarity or characteristic, esp. of language, e.g. æolism, Americanism, Anglicism, Atticism, Devonshirism, Gallicism, Græcism, Hebraism, Hellenism, Latinism, Orientalism, Scotticism, Southernism, Westernism, etc. To these add such as archaism, classicism, colloquialism, modernism, newspaperism, solecism, sophism, witticism.
Also denoting a peculiarity or characteristic of the language, style, or phraseology of a writer, speaker, character in fiction, etc., as Browningism, Carlylism, De Quinceyism, Gibbonism, Montesquieuism, Micawberism, and similar nonce-words without number.
Adjectives pertaining in sense to ns. in -ism are formed in -istic; e.g. atheism, atheistic; naturalism, naturalistic.
a. Forming nouns with the sense ‘belief in the superiority of one—— over another’; as racism, sexism, speciesism, etc. b. Forming nouns with the sense ‘discrimination or prejudice against on the basis of——’; as ageism, bodyism, heightism, faceism, lookism, sizeism, weightism, etc.
Arising from a reinterpretation of the suffix as used in sense Additions a.

Useful english dictionary. 2012.

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