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And now, some words about -some words, or, those ending in “some.”

Because we're talking about the English language, you must not expect logic from this suffix. Merriam-Webster says — some words are “characterized by a (specified) thing, quality, state or action.” That covers a ton of ground.

Many of the definitions make sense. A “foursome” is a group of four. A “bothersome” creak is one that bugs you.

“Nettlesome“ means something irritating. It's as if an invisible stinging nettle has wormed its way into your day.

"Quarrelsome" describes a person who likes to argue.

“Flavorsome” means full of flavor.

Watch your spelling on “meddlesome” and “mettlesome.” They sound similar but are different. The first means that you butt in where you’re not needed. The second means you're spirited. Which would you rather be?

“Fearsome” means you make others fear you. Confusingly, it could also mean someone who is filled with fear. So you need to use “fearsome” in a clear context.

Another word like this is “worrisome.” It can mean a thing that makes you worry or a person prone to worrying.

The sources of other -some words are less obvious.

Most people know the word “cumbersome,” something unwieldy or hindering. But what's a cumber? It’s defined as a “hindrance” (a helpful definition) and an “encumbrance” (a non-enlightening definition).

“Gruesome” means something horrible or frightening. The dictionary lists “grewsome” as a strange alternate spelling of gruesome. The “grue” root is from an obsolete term for “to shudder.”

Why does “handsome” mean good-looking? Why doesn’t it mean full of hands or describe a multitasker? Back in the 16th century, the word meant apt or fitting. It evolved over time to be the perfect word to describe Paul Newman or, more recently, Idris Elba.

“Winsome” isn’t much easier to explain. Does it mean several wins?

No, winsome means charming, with a childlike innocence. The “win” part of it is from an Old English root meaning joy.

“Toothsome” creates some problems.

It means something tastes good, but it also could mean something is attractive. That’s one weird overlap of food and attraction.

“Fulsome” goes way beyond the quality of fullness. It’s an immoderate, gross excessiveness. When used to describe food, it means sickening. But it also has the less offensive definition meaning thorough and expansive.

“Noisome” involves an offensive odor, not a loud noise. The root is from the Old French word for “to annoy.”

I never remember this one. I always think it's connected to noisette, French word for hazelnut. Which leads me to think about hazelnut in chocolate, and then I lose my concentration.

Many of the -some words I found were new to me.

“Darksome” means somber.

“Longsome” is something that goes on for so long that you get bored. I’m thinking of a lecture delivered at a monotone about, say, combinatorics of acyclic orientations of graphs. (I have no idea what that is.)

“Boresome” means tedious. And longsome.

“Ugsome” is exactly as it sounds. It’s an archaic word meaning disgusting, or something that makes you say, “Ugh.” It’s from the Middle English/Old Norse roots for “fear.”

“Eyesome” is archaic but essentially means, “easy on the eyes.” It doesn’t mean filled with eyes, such as a potato.

Several of the words mean filled with cheer: blithesome, frolicsome, gladsome, lightsome, gamesome. My favorite was "larksome," playful or frolicsome with a hint of mischief.

“Wholesome” means one is full of health and good morals. I suppose halfsome, if it were a word, would mean having only one of those qualities.

Some of the words have taken on different suffixes and retained the meaning.

Lovesome means lovely.

Lonesome means lonely.

Tiresome means tiring; wearisome means wearying.

Dolesome means doleful.

Many -some words are terms from biology, genetics and zoology. The suffix in those cases means "body."

Chromosomes are those things that carry genes.

A leptosome is a person with a weak or slight build.

A microsome is a portion of a cell.

A trisome is a person with an extra chromosome.

And an autosome is any chromosome that's not a sex chromosome.

Sources:, American Heritage Dictionary, Merriam-Webster,, MIT, Oxford Dictionaries, The Free Dictionary

Style on 11/05/2018

Print Headline: 'Some' as a suffix is tiresome


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