1. a suffix used in forming nouns designating persons from the object of their occupation or labor (hatter; tiler; tinner; moonshiner), or from their place of origin or abode (Icelander; southerner; villager), or designating either persons or things from some special characteristic or circumstance (six-footer; three-master; teetotaler; fiver; tenner).
2. a suffix serving as the regular English formative of agent nouns, being attached to verbs of any origin (bearer; creeper; employer; harvester; teacher; theorizer). Cf. -ier1, -yer.
[ME -er(e), a coalescence of OE -ere agentive suffix (c. OHG -ari, Goth -areis < Gmc *-arjaz ( > Slav *-ari) < L -arius -ARY) and OE -ware forming nouns of ethnic or residential orig. (as Romware Romans), c. OHG -ari < Gmc *-warioz people]
a noun suffix occurring in loanwords from French in the Middle English period, most often names of occupations (archer; butcher; butler; carpenter; grocer; mariner; officer), but also other nouns (corner; danger; primer). Some historical instances of this suffix, as in banker or gardener, where the base is a recognizable modern English word, are now indistinguishable from denominal formations with -er1, as miller or potter.
[ME < AF -er, equiv. to OF -er, -ier < L -arius, -arium. Compare -ARY, -EER, -IER2]
a termination of nouns denoting action or process: dinner; rejoinder; remainder; trover.
[ < F, orig. inf. suffix -er, -re]
a suffix regularly used in forming the comparative degree of adjectives: harder; smaller.
[ME -er(e), -re, OE -ra, -re; c. G -er]
a suffix regularly used in forming the comparative degree of adverbs: faster.
[ME -er(e), -re, OE -or; c. OHG -or, G -er]
a formal element appearing in verbs having frequentative meaning: flicker; flutter; shiver; shudder.
[ME; OE -r-; c. G -(e)r-]
a suffix that creates informal or jocular mutations of more neutral words, which are typically clipped to a single syllable if polysyllabic, before application of the suffix, and which sometimes undergo other phonetic alterations: bed-sitter; footer; fresher; rugger. Most words formed thus have been limited to English public-school and university slang; few, if any, have become current in North America, with the exception of soccer, which has also lost its earlier informal character. Cf. -ers.
[prob. modeled on nonagentive uses of -ER1; said to have first become current in University College, Oxford, 1875-80]

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Universalium. 2010.

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