Verbs that can end in -ise or -ize
|British English||American English|
|authorise / authorize||authorize|
|apologise / apologize||apologize|
|civilise / civilize||civilize|
|organise / organize||organize|
|realise / realize||realize|
|recognise / recognize||recognize|
- the-ize suffix is etymologically correct, so -ise endings should be avoided for these verbs.
- -ize endings are Americanisations so are to be avoided
Some related non-controversial areas to get out of the way
Metadyne - 'The '-ize' have it'
- the etymological arguments: where did these words come from?
- what has been the influence of French, and when. Was it thought 'posh', and did the Anglo-Norman barons have much to do with it?
- to what extent -ise endings have been used in British-published books, and when. How 'comparatively recent' has this development been?
- what is the situation today? Who uses -ise endings and to what extent?
- how is this dealt with by the most prestigious commentators on British English?
- In Early and Middle English -isen was a standard verb ending
- Words were adopted into English, either from French or directly from Latin> Some were given M.E. -isen endings which later changed to -ise endings while others immediately adopted the French -ise ending
- In the great linguistic clean up round the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, these were changed to -ize to reflect their Latin -izare and Greek -izein roots.
- But the -ise endings didn't die out altogether.
A few case studies
- Some of these verbs came from French, some came from Latin, some came from both in parallel. And some were simply created from existing English nouns and adjectives.
- However these verbs started off life, -ize endings became much more common than -ise endings from very early on in the seventeenth century.
- There is a very clear pattern: -ize versions were dominant until about the middle of the nineteenth century or later, when the -ise versions took over in popularity, but which were themselves overtaken again by -ize sometime in the 1920s. This table shows the period for each verb when the -ise version was more common:
apologise 1850-1920 authorise 1890-1960 civilise 1875-1920 legalise 1870-1920 organise 1870-1925 realise 1870-1930 recognise 1830-1939 sympathise 1850-1930
- From the 1920s onwards -ize endings re-established themselves.
The strange case of exorcise, criticise and baptize
The letter Z
The French Connection
The early days of printing
Early Modern English
Post Commonwealth 17th century
|Verb||Annual Register||Blackwood's||Notes & Queries|
What's the position today?
The Oxford University Press
The Scientific and technical press.
People in general
The British National Corpus
|Ratios - is to -iz||-e||-ed||-ation|
Why the discrepancy with Ngram?
What the usage guides say.
Henry W. Fowler - A Dictionary of Modern English Usage
- The First Edition 1926, by Fowler himself
- The Second Edition 1965, edited by Sir Ernest Gowers
- The Third Edition 1996, edited by R.W.Burchfield
Sir Ernest Gowers - The Complete Plain Words
- The First Edition 1954, by Gowers himself
- The Second Edition 1973, edited by Sir Bruce Fraser
- The Third Edition 1986, edited by Sydney Greenbaum and Janet Whitcut
A note on Oxford English
- Where an -ize ending is possible, they use it.
- Where the -ise ending is compulsory, they obviously use that.
- Where the choice is between -yze and -yse, they go for -yse
The American / British angle
The Phonetic argument
- Why was there a revival of the -ise version in the nineteenth century after -ize had seemed to become the norm three hundred years earlier?
- Why did -ize then make a comeback in the 1920s? Was it perhaps in response to Fowler's criticism?
- Has there been another swing towards -ise in the last few years?
- Is -ise use increasing or declining?
- Is there a difference between use in books and use in newspapers, private correspondence etc?
A possible theory for the rise in the use of the S ending.
Book references - Early Modern English
The King James Bible 1611 (400th anniversary facsimile)baptized
- Sonnet 102 - That love is merchandized, whose rich esteeming,
- Love's complaint - His rudeness so with his authorized youth
- Othello Act IV Scene I - An unauthorized kiss
- Macbeth Act III Scene IV - Authorized by her grandam. Shame itself!
- The Tempest Act V Scene 1 - Of these our dear-belov'd solemnized
- Love's Labour's Lost Act II Scene I - Of Jaques Falconbridge, solemnized
- Comedy of Errors Act IV Scene I (at bottom right)That by this sympathized one day's error
- Henry VI Part 2, Act I Scene II Are brazen images of canonized saints.
Book references - Post Commonwealth 17th century
Samuel Pepys Diary 1660-1669 (1893 edited by Henry B Wheatley, London)surprized - baptized - particularized - solemnized - frized
John Bunyan - Pilgrim's Progress (Facsimile of First Edition)authorized
Book references - 18th century
Gulliver's Travels 1726 facsimilecivilized
Gulliver's Travels 1726 (London 1826)civilized - civilised - familiarized
Daniel Defoe - The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe 1719 (London 1834)naturalized - realized
Henry Fielding - The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling 1749 (London 1806)recognised - authorised - civilised
Lawrence Sterne - The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman 1759 (London 1832)solemnized - baptized - subtilized - uncrystalized - harmonized
Book references - 19th century
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels - The Communist Manifesto 1848 (1975 with original text)monopolised - civilised - equalised
Charles Dickens - David Copperfield 1850 - Bradbury and Evans Original 1850recognised - apologised - emphasised - immortalized
Charles Dickens - Hard Times 1849 (facsimile PDF)emphasise (second paragraph)
Links - The debate
- Oxford Dictionaries Online - the basic rules
- Dictionary.com - the story of -ize
- Wikipedia - Spelling differences between British and American English
- Metadyne - The ‘-ize’ have it!
- Kate Grady at Translation Directory
- British Library Timeline
- The Internet Archive
- The Open Library
- The Internet Public Library
- Internet Library of Early Journals
- The Internet Shakespeare
- Dickens - Stanford
- Samuel Johnson's Dictionary
The letter Z
Search for 'recognised' at the five quality British newspapers and the BBC.
Other links worth a look
- A Dictionary of Printers and Printing (London 1839) - By Charles Henry Timperley
- Anthology of Chancery texts
- Gladly Wolde He - Chancery Standard