Hang on in There! More Morphology

For those of you who enjoyed exploring morphology with your class last week, here is another word exploration.

The word expensive is one that we use a lot now.  Everything seems to be getting more and more expensive.  Have you ever stopped to think about what the word expensive really means?  It is an interesting word and full of history.

There are three morphemes (units of meaning) in the word expensive.  Ex + pens + ive

  • Ex means very or out of or from
  • pens means hang or weigh
  • ive means someone or something that does something

So expensive means something that weighs a lot.

This seems a strange meaning for things that cost a lot of money.  Hundreds of years ago, when people bought things in markets, the produce that they were buying was weighed to determine how much they cost.  Goods now usually have a set value so the term expensive doesn’t make as much sense now as it did a long time ago.

Another interesting thing is, why does pens have an e after it when it is at the end of a word and not in the middle?

If a word ends with an s, it usually means that it is a plural word, e.g. dogs, or it is a third person singular verb, e.g. she runs.  It is often put after a word that ends in s that is neither a plural nor a third person singular verb.  So, expense is neither a plural nor a third person singular verb, so it has an e after the s.

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