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The English suffix -ism was first used to form a noun of action from a verb. It is taken from the Greek suffix -ismos that likewise forms abstract nouns from verbal stems.
The first recorded usage of the suffix ism as a separate word in its own right was in 1680. By the nineteenth century it was being used by Thomas Carlyle to signify a pre-packaged ideology. It was later used in this sense by such writers as Julian Huxley and George Bernard Shaw.
In the present day, it appears in the title of a standard survey of political thought, Today's ISMS by William Ebenstein, first published in the 1950s, and now in its 11th edition.
The -ism suffix can be used to express the following concepts
- doctrine or philosophy (e.g. pacifism, olympism)
- theory developed by an individual (e.g. Marxism)
- political movement (e.g. feminism)
- artistic movement (e.g. cubism)
- action, process or practice (e.g. voyeurism)
- characteristic, quality or origin (e.g. heroism)
- state or condition (e.g. pauperism)
- excess or disease (e.g. botulism)
- prejudice or bias (e.g. racism)
- characteristic speech patterns (e.g. Yogiism, Bushism)
- religion or belief system (e.g. Mormonism)
Many isms are defined as an act or practice by some, while also being defined as the doctrine or philosophy behind the act or practice by others. Examples include activism, altruism, despotism, elitism, optimism, sexism and terrorism. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/-ism [Aug 2006]
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