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8 Words That Are Older Than You Think

-s1

1.
a native English suffix used in the formation of adverbs:
always; betimes; needs; unawares.
Compare -ways.
Origin
Middle English -es, Old English; ultimately identical with 's1

-s2

1.
an ending marking the third person singular indicative active of verbs:
walks.
Origin
Middle English (north) -(e)s, Old English (north); orig. ending of 2nd person singular, as in Latin and Greek; replacing Middle English, Old English -eth -eth1

-s3

1.
an ending marking nouns as plural (boys; wolves), occurring also on nouns that have no singular (dregs; entrails; pants; scissors), or on nouns that have a singular with a different meaning (clothes; glasses; manners; thanks). The pluralizing value of -s3, is weakened or lost in a number of nouns that now often take singular agreement, as the names of games (billiards; checkers; tiddlywinks) and of diseases (measles; mumps; pox; rickets); the latter use has been extended to create informal names for a variety of involuntary conditions, physical or mental (collywobbles; d.t.'s; giggles; hots; willies). A parallel set of formations, where -s3, has no plural value, are adjectives denoting socially unacceptable or inconvenient states (bananas; bonkers; crackers; nuts; preggers; starkers);
cf. -ers.
Also, -es.
Origin
Middle English -(e)s, Old English -as, plural nominative and accusative ending of some masculine nouns

-s4

1.
a suffix of hypocoristic nouns, generally proper names or forms used only in address:
Babs; Fats; Suzykins; Sweetums; Toodles.
Origin
probably from the metonymic use of nouns formed with -s3, as boots or Goldilocks
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for -s

-s1

suffix
1.
forming the plural of most nouns: boys, boxes
Word Origin
from Old English -as, plural nominative and accusative ending of some masculine nouns

-s2

suffix
1.
forming the third person singular present indicative tense of verbs: he runs, she washes
Word Origin
from Old English (northern dialect) -es, -s, originally the ending of the second person singular

-s3

suffix
1.
forming nicknames and names expressing affection or familiarity: Fats, Fingers, ducks
Word Origin
special use of -s1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for -s

suffix forming almost all Modern English plural nouns, gradually extended in Middle English from Old English -as, the nominative plural and accusative plural ending of certain "strong" masculine nouns (cf. dæg "day," nominative/accusative plural dagas "days"). The commonest Germanic declension, traceable back to the original PIE inflection system, it is also the source of the Dutch -s plurals and (by rhotacism) Scandinavian -r plurals (e.g. Swedish dagar).

Much more uniform today than originally; Old English also had a numerous category of "weak" nouns that formed their plurals in -an, and other strong nouns that formed plurals with -u. Quirk and Wrenn, in their Old English grammar, estimate that 45 percent of the nouns a student will encounter will be masculine, nearly four-fifths of them with genitive singular -es and nominative/accusative plural in -as. Less than half, but still the largest chunk.

The triumphs of -'s possessives and -s plurals represent common patterns in language: using only a handful of suffixes to do many jobs (e.g. -ing), and the most common variant squeezing out the competition. To further muddy the waters, it's been extended in slang since 1936 to singulars (e.g. ducks, sweets, babes) as an affectionate or diminutive suffix.

Old English single-syllable collectives (sheep, folk) as well as weights, measures, and units of time did not use -s. The use of it in these cases began in Middle English, but the older custom is preserved in many traditional dialects (ten pound of butter; more than seven year ago; etc.).

third person singular present indicative suffix of verbs, it represents Old English -es, -as, which began to replace -eð in Northumbrian 10c., and gradually spread south until by Shakespeare's time it had emerged from colloquialism and -eth began to be limited to more dignified speeches.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for -s

-s

suffix

used to form singular nouns A diminutive or affectionate version of what is indicated, used as a term of address: babes/ ducks/ moms/ sweets (1936+ in ducks)


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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