British Use of "ie" on common words

GenJen54

Senior Member
USA - English
I have noticed of late that British English speakers add a diminutive "ie" to common words, I suppose to give them a more colloquial feel. Two have showed up in the forums as of late.

Here are the (very) few that I know.

ciggie = cigarettes
biccies = biscuits (cookies or tea biscuits for us AE folk)
pressie = presents (as in, birthday)
sammie = sandwich

Does anyone know the (approximate) origin of this? What other common words are "ie" added to?
 
  • Chaska Ñawi

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Not just BE speakers - here we've had prezzies, bikkies, ciggies, and such since I was growing up.

    Most animals have the suffix added when they're small or when people are speaking to children.

    My great grandfather used to visit the "wee housie" instead of the outhouse.

    Have to go teach, but more thoughts later.

    P.S. We also have wedgies (where you yank the back of someone's underwear), but that's a different story.....
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    Lots of diminutives are used when speaking to children, as you would expect:

    Horsie/horsey (also an adjective to describe certain upper-class women)
    Doggie (but not "catty" in this sense. Isn't English great and simple?)
    mousie

    But not "cowie" - moo-cow, yes.

    We also have "wedgie" and I had to ask my nephew what it meant!

    Grampie/granny/aunty (but not uncley)
    beddie-byes
    drinkie/drinkie-poos
    birdie

    "poos" is another suffix in itself.

    I remember "sexie-poos" from "Black Comedy" by Peter Shaffer, but this usage was to illustrate the character of the character (!) speaking the lines - upper-class, immature, twee.
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    We have all of the common "animal" diminutives, too (doggie, kitty, horsey, ducky, etc.) And of course, we have "wedgie" (which is a word entirely on it's own).

    What AE speakers really don't have are words like those listed above.

    telly is another one I can think of.
     

    moodywop

    Banned
    Italian - Italy
    Hi GenJen

    The SOED lists -ie as a "variant of -y, (esp. Sc. and Austral.), as in birdie, doggie, roughie, sickie, used also in independent formations, as bookie" but does not provide any information on the history of the suffix.

    I wonder if it's always been around as a variant of -y:

    -y (also ey, -ie)forming diminutive names, pet names, etc aunty, nightie
    [Middle English: originally Scots]

    I have indeed heard -ie used in AustrE even more widely than in BE. I think that barbie (barbecue) or truckie (truck-driver) are distinctively Australian. Maybe Brioche and Charles can provide more examples.

    One distinctively BE suffix I used to hear in London is -ers, as in preggers for pregnant and champers for champagne.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    As suggested, the -ie suffix has been around for a long time. Is it related to the -y suffix? I have no idea. Personal names often get a -y or -ie diminutive, of course, so the habit is there just waiting to be applied to pressies, sarnies, fingies, toesies, chippies, bookies, Marksies, Bootsies - and all the rest.

    The -ers suffix is a different creature altogether. Rushing off now, but I believe that started in English Public Schools in the 19th century.
     

    jpdeweerdt

    Member
    French - Belgium
    It most probably comes from VERY ancient times, since we can find it back in another germanic language (I do not know about others).

    eg: cookie comes from 'koekje' in Dutch and 'Yankee' from 'Jantje'. If I remember well my philology teacher said it was the same deformation. (in Dutch j is equivalent to i but I'm not going to demonstrate this)

    So the origin is to be found in Germanic languages, not just in English
     

    moirag

    Senior Member
    English, England
    I don´t find it a recent thing, but it seems that we English speakers do it a lot less than speakers of many other languages. It´s often a "diminutive" type of suffix, and varies regionally. I am by no means an expert, but have noticed that it is used, for example, with things kids use, or everyday things, but I have yet to see it used to describe an engine, or anything seriously macho. So, I´m sorry my friendie-wendies. but I have to go to beddie-byes..
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    moirag said:
    but have noticed that it is used, for example, with things kids use, or everyday things, but I have yet to see it used to describe an engine, or anything seriously macho.

    We Yanks also use diminutives with our wee-ones. Part of the baby gobbledy-gook that every parent learns.

    However, I've noticed Br-English speaking adults use it in general conversation, such as:

    "Hey, gimme one of them ciggies, will ya?" or
    "What do you like on your sammie?"

    Cigarette, last I checked was a very adult word. I've just noticed a general propensity for some British English speakers to use these types of diminutives with words that are not normally associated with children.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    moodywop said:
    Hi GenJen

    I have indeed heard -ie used in AustrE even more widely than in BE. I think that barbie (barbecue) or truckie (truck-driver) are distinctively Australian. Maybe Brioche and Charles can provide more examples.

    Pollie = politician
    bikie = member of motorcycle gang
    gladdie = gladiolus (flower)
    budgie = budgerigar (bird)
    brekky = breakfast
    chippie = carpenter
    brikkie = brick-layer

    But short forms are also formed with -o
    garbo = rubbish collector, dustman
    smoko = pause to have a ciggie, and may be a drink [workingman's morning/afternoon tea]
    benno = [old-fashioned social security slang] person receiving a benefit from the government - also known as bennie in some places.

    McDonald's [hamburger joint] is called Macca's here.
     

    Cracker Jack

    Senior Member
    GenJen54 said:
    We Yanks also use diminutives with our wee-ones. Part of the baby gobbledy-gook that every parent learns.

    However, I've noticed Br-English speaking adults use it in general conversation, such as:

    "Hey, gimme one of them ciggies, will ya?" or
    "What do you like on your sammie?"

    Cigarette, last I checked was a very adult word. I've just noticed a general propensity for some British English speakers to use these types of diminutives with words that are not normally associated with children.

    I have heard in some American films characters using the word ''ciggie.'' And the actors are all Americans. Probably if this is indeed of BE origin, it may have influenced AE.
     

    somarose

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I've never heard any American use "ciggie" and I think they would be laughed at if they did. If anything, "cig" is used.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    somarose said:
    I've never heard any American use "ciggie" and I think they would be laughed at if they did. If anything, "cig" is used.

    And they definitely would not use another BE slang expression for a ciggie, namely a fag.
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    My guess is that these diminutive forms relate to Dutch - Appel - Appeltje.

    German appears to have - chen, lein, le, etc.
    Danish and Icelandic don't appear to have as much connection as Dutch in diminutives "ie".
     
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