Ask the Editor
When the suffix -ship is added to a word such as dictatorship or relationship, why and how does the meaning of the word change? — Mohamed, Algeria
-Ship is a noun suffix. When you add it to the end of a word, that word becomes a noun. It can be added to a word that is already a noun. When that happens, the noun becomes a different noun.
The noun suffix -ship can change the meaning of a word in several different ways. The three most common new meanings are below.
: the state or condition of being something
friendship = the state of being a friend
apprenticeship the condition of being an apprentice
relationship = the state of being related; the state between those having relations
: the position, status, or duties of something
professorship = the position of a professor
clerkship = the status of being a clerk
dictatorship = the office, actions, or duties of a dictator
: skill or ability as someone or something
horsemanship = skill as a horseman
penmanship = ability as a penman [=scribe; calligrapher]
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