Origins & Usage Notes

  • There are only four nouns in standard English which end in –asy. It’s best just to remember these: apostasy, ecstasy, fantasy, idiosyncrasy.
  • A variant of –cy, the suffix –acy forms nouns of quality, state, or condition, a confusion in English of three similar suffixes from Latin.
Origins Examples Exceptions/Notes
From Old French –acie and directly from Medieval Latin –acia, Late Latin –atia, making nouns of quality, state, or condition from nouns in –as abbacy, diplomacy, optimacy, primacy, supremacy  
From Late Latin –atia, forming nouns of state from nouns in –atus advocacy, legacy, prelacy; confederacy, curacy, magistracy (these words do not have Latin precedents); accuracy, alternacy, degeneracy, delicacy, effeminacy, intimacy, intricacy, inveteracy, legitimacy, obstinacy, privacy, profligacy, subordinacy; celibacy, episcopacy All of these words are derived from words ending in –ate (sense 1). Exceptions include conspiracy, procuracy. Lunacy is formed to match lunatic, after the connection with diplomacy, prelacy, to diplimatic, prelatic.
From Latin –acia, forming nouns of quality from adjectives in –ax (genitive –acis);  contumacy, efficacy, fallacy Note the parallel suffix –acity (rapacity) and the equivalent –aciousness (fallaciousness, rapaciousness)
From Greek –ateia, forming part of –cracy aristocracy; legacy, piracy Extended in English to nouns not found in Latin (accuracy) and to non-Latin words (piracy)

Word Formation Resource

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