Friday, August 16, 2013

Random-ised thoughts: -ize verbs and -ise verbs - the basics

There is a large group of transitive verbs formed from nouns or adjectives which have a suffix with the sound /aɪz/. In American English these are always spelt with an -ize ending, but the standard position in British English is that they can be spelt with either -ize or -ise, depending on your fancy.
There's another, much smaller group with the same /aɪz/ sound, which are always spelt with an -ise ending, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Here I take a quick look at the basics.

Group 1
Verbs that end in -ize (and can also end in -ise in British English)

This group of verbs get their ending from the Late Latin suffix -izare, which ultimately came from the Greek -izein. Some of the earliest of these first came into English (often via French) with an -ise ending, but in the 13th and 14th centuries, the s was later changed to a z, to be more in keeping with the Latin and Greek originals.
The earliest verbs with the -ize ending came from Latin, often via French, but from at least the sixteenth century onwards, the -ize ending was added to all sorts of verbs, whether they had a Latin source or not.
From the beginning of the nineteenth century, some British publishers started to spell these verbs with an s rather than a z, and -ise is now standard in almost all British newspapers. The main bastion of the -ize ending in Britain is the Oxford University Press.
Examples of this group include:
British EnglishAmerican English
authorise / authorizeauthorize
apologise / apologizeapologize
civilise / civilizecivilize
organise / organizeorganize
realise / realizerealize
recognise / recognizerecognize
These verbs can in turn be transformed into participal adjectives, such as civilised or civilized, and nouns, such as civilisation or civilization. There is a very good explanation of this at Dictionary.com (link below).
The -ise/-ize suffix is a very productive one, as it seems almost any noun can be turned into a transitive verb using it. More recent additions to the language include prioritise/prioritize from the noun priority, incentivise/incentivize from the noun incentive and finalise/finalize from the adjective final. Some people don't like some of these new verbs and this 'verbalisation' has been argued about for a long time, but that is not our concern here. What I'm interested in here is the relative positions of -ise and -ize endings in British English.
By British English I mean the varieties of English spoken in Australasia, parts of Africa, the Caribbean and India as well as in Britain itself.Indeed, the Australians seem to use the -ise ending even more than the British.Although Canadians use British spellings in some cases, I think they're with the Americans on this one.
Depending on who you listen to, -ise endings seem to either be increasing in popularity in British English, or perhaps declining. If the latter is true, some people are inclined to see it as a result of American influence. If the former, others might see it as a statement of national identity, perhaps.

Group 2
Verbs that always end in -ise (even in American English)

There are a few verbs that always end in -ise in both American and British English. Here's what they say at Oxford Dictionaries Online:
The main reason for this is that, in these words, -ise is part of a longer word element rather than being a separate ending in its own right. For example: -cise (meaning 'cutting') in the word excise; -prise (meaning 'taking') as in surprise; or -mise (meaning 'sending') in promise.
These are always spelt -ise, in both British and American English. Many of them are based on the elements - cise, mise, prise, vise, which mainly come from French past participles, for example -mise from mettre/mis, -prise from prendre/pris.
Click on D to see a definition and origins at Dictionary.com, click on E to see the origins at the Online Etymology Dictionary.
-cise-mise-prise
circumciseDE compromiseDE appriseDE
exerciseDE demiseDE compriseDE
exciseDE surmiseDE enterpriseDE
inciseDE priseDE
surpriseDE
-tise-viseother
advertiseDE adviseDE ariseDE
chastiseDE deviseDE disenfranchiseDE
improviseDE despiseDE
reviseDE disguiseDE
superviseDE enfranchiseDE
televiseDE
As a way of distinguishing these from the suffix verbs we looked at first, I'll call these French -ise verbs and the others, authorise, recognise etc, -ize suffix verbs.

Group 3
Verbs that always end in -ize (even in British English)

There are half a dozen or so words that always end in -ize, like seize, but as far as I know there are only two verbs with the /aɪz/ pronunciation:
capsizeDE prizeDE
But see note on prize / prise below.

Group 4 - -yse/-yze verbs

These are always spelt -yse in British English, and -yze in American English
analyseD E catalyseDE electrolyseDE paralyseDE
breathalyseDE dialyseDE hydrolyseDE psychoanalyseDE

Group 5 - marginal cases

  • prize / prise - the verb prize, meaning to value something, is spelt with a Z on both sides of the Atlantic. The verb prise, meaning to use force to separate something from something else, etymologically belongs with the French -ise verbs and is spelt with an S in British English. In American English, however, it is also spelt with a Z
  • exorcise - has similar roots to other -ize suffix verbs - '15th C. Middle English exorcisen, from Late Latin exorcizare, from Greek exorkizein'. But it rather looks as though it's been associated with those other verbs ending in -cise which have come directly from French, like exercise and circumcise, which always take an s.
    Online Etymology Dictionary lists it under -ise, calling it - 'A rare case where -ise trumps -ize on both sides of the Atlantic, perhaps by influence of exercise.' American dictionaries such as Dictionary.com generally seem to list it under the s spelling but also accept the z spelling.
    Strangely, Oxford Dictionaries Online list exorcise under s, while Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary lists it under z.
  • baptize - The opposite is the case here. The -ise spelling never really caught on in Britain at all.

Related posts

For related posts see the -ize / -ise page

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