What Is The Origin of The Suffix -ize? (History and Development)

I often research prefixes and suffixes to help my students easily increase their vocabulary. Every time I do this, I’m surprised by how much great information I can find.

Today’s post on the origin of the suffix -ize is another great example. I found a lot of information on the web. I put it together and wrote this post just for you.

According to Merriam-webster.com, a British writer named Thomas Nashe claims to have introduced the suffix -ize to the English language in the late 1500s. He said that his use of -ize was criticized back in 1591, but today we can find many verbs ending with this suffix in English.

Learn the origin of the suffix, learn how to use it, and read some example sentences with words ending in -ize.

What is The Origin of The Suffix -ize?

The suffix -ize… is generally regarded as the most productive overt verb-forming suffix in English Source 
(This suffix is used to make more verbs than any other English suffix.)

A British author named Thomas Nash has been credited with creating the suffix -ize. Thomas wrote during a period in England called the Elizabethan era. (This refers to a time in the mid-1500s to the early 1600s when Elizabeth I [the First] was the Queen of England)
Elizabethan era

This is considered one of the greatest times in history for English poetry, music, and literature. Writers such as Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare wrote during this time.

It seems that even if Thomas Nash didn’t invent all the verbs using the suffix -ize he was very fond of using them in his writings. 

As well as apparently inventing quite a few -ize verbs, Nashe seems to have really liked using existing ones as well. The use of -ize verbs was quite rare at the time.

William Shakespeare only uses about thirty verbs ending with the suffx -ize, and there is only one -ize verb in the King James Bible. [baptize] Source

Modern Use of the Suffix -ize

Many of the verbs created by Thomas Nash using the suffix -ize are outdated and not used today. Nevertheless, -ize is very common in the modern era. New verbs are created with this suffix all the time. 

This suffix is used with technical terms too in science and literature. I have included 6 examples below.

oxidize – to become covered with rust

– Almost all metals will rust, but silver never oxidizes.

monetize – to earn money from something, especially a business or an asset

– If you have enough subscribers on your YouTube channel you can monetize your videos.

atomize – to reduce something to atoms or very small pieces

– Researchers are trying to atomize this medicine so it can be sprayed on an infected area from an aerosol can.

motorize – to equip with a motor

– After the bicycle was invented, it didn’t take long for someone to get the idea to motorize it.

ionize – to change something or be changed into ions

– “Radiation from new stars will heat and ionize the surrounding gas.”

romanize – to write or print (something, such as a language) in the Latin alphabet

My Japanese teacher encouraged me to write using Japanese characters right away. If I romanize the Japanese words in my notes I’m missing a great chance to learn the Japanese alphabet.

Many common English words were invented or first used by popular authors.
After these new words appeared in their writings, they started to be used commonly by everyday people.

William Shakespeare was the first person to use the noun elbow as a verb

elbow noun – the joint between the upper and lower parts of the arm where it bends in the middle

  • Jason’s elbow was sore after playing golf.
  • He rested his elbow on the bench.

elbow verb – to push somebody with your elbow, to signal them to move

  • She elbowed me out of the way to get to the front of the line.
  • The soccer players elbowed each other trying to get the ball.

– to strike someone with your elbow

  • She elbowed her attacker in the ribs and ran away. 

How did Shakespeare use it?
In his play, King Lear, Act IV, Scene III, the Earl of Kent says
“A sovereign shame so elbows him.”

This sovereign shame is pushing him or signaling him to move in a particular direction.

More COMMON Verbs With -ize

Here is a list of 10 common verbs that end with the suffix -ize.

authorize – to give permission, to authorize

  • I don’t think that you are authorized to make those kinds of decisions. I’m going to call the boss and double-check. 

capitalize – to write or print a letter of the alphabet as a capital

  • You should capitalize the first letter a sentence and any proper nouns. 

centralize – to give the control of a country or an organization to a group of people in one central  place

  • To cut costs the local government is going to centralize 3 smaller hospitals in the area.

customize –  to make or change something to suit the needs of the owner or user [make it custom]

  • I’m excited about my new car and I can’t wait until I customize it and make it even better. 

dramatize – to present a book, an event, etc. as a play or a film [to make a drama]

  • The movie did a great job dramatizing the struggle of factory workers 50 years ago. I plan to watch the movie a second time, I really enjoyed it.

familiarize – to learn about something or teach somebody about something, so that you/they start to understand it [to become familiar]

  • After I moved to last August I took time to familiarize myself with the local area. It’s good to know where the important stores, services, and coffee shops are located. 

finalize – to complete the last part of something [to do the final part]

  • I just finalized a new three-year contract with the school where I teach and I couldn’t be happier. 

moisturize – to add moisture, to make moist

  • The winter months are very dry so it’s important to moisturize every night before you go to sleep. This will protect your skin from drying out. 

neutralize – to stop something from having any effect [to male neutral] 

  • If we want to win the game tonight we must neutralize their top scorer. 

vandalize – to damage something, especially public property, deliberately and for no good reason [to cause vandalism]

  • The school was vandalized last night. Windows were broken and there was spray paint on the walls.

These 10 examples come from a larger list at my post > How To Use The Suffix -ize (List, Definitions, 48 Examples)

Origin of The Suffix -ize Conclusion

Even if Thomas Nash didn’t invent the suffix -ize he definitely helped to popularize it! Thank you Thomas Nash, I will now try to memorize as many suffix -ize words as I can. This will help me maximize my brain power. 

This post is part of a group of posts that take a look at the suffix -ize. Visit these other posts and do a deeper dive into this suffix.

How To Use The Suffix -ize (List, Definitions, 48 Examples)

What’s the Difference Between the Suffixes -IZE and -ISE?

Confusing Suffixes -ize and -ify (How and When to Use Them)

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