Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

Good morning! This is my first post, although I have been working with groups for about three years investigating spellings and word histories. We are a 4th grade group of word detectives and we are investigating the word <money>. We first wondered about the <ey>. Is this a suffix (or perhaps just -y suffix). We looked at etymonline and discovered in comes from the Old French <monoie>. But we also discovered some related words that made us wonder even more....


<monetary> this word maintains the <e> but the <y> is gone and was not changed to an <i>

<monies> this word loses the <e> but the <yis changed to an <i>.

We used the word searcher to find other words as we knew that words ending in <eyadd <s> to pluralize but we only found one other base that only has 1 consonant between the first vowel and the <ey>, which is <honey>. We are wondering how this information fits in. Is the <e> there to show historical connection? 

Any thoughts? 

Comments (3)

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I was studying the Tool Box for another spelling question and happened upon the possible <ey> suffix. I quickly thought of this recent post and wanted to share what I found.

Check out the Tool Box Kit 4, Theme L. It states that <ey> is not a suffix. There are many examples: money, abbey, honey, barley, alley, journey. These words are considered bases, not complex.

Ginger Beaton
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We ran into this trio of words last week in my group of 2nd graders, we could not resolve the structural relationship. I remembered this post and told the students I'd reread it and report back on Monday.

I had not thought of <-ey> being a suffix. An Etymonline search does not return any word-forming elements when searching that as a suffix, however, scrolling down a bit gives etymological info on <kidney> in which the <-ey> has a denotation and further link to <egg> for its shape:;allowed_in_frame=0
So, this confuses me. Is this suggesting that <-ey> can be used if the shape of an item relates? So I looked up the following words: monkey, pokey, pulley, jockey and several others. Most appeared to be base words on their own. Two of these contained links to base words but did not make mention of <-ey> or provide links to 'egg' (<pulley> see 'pull'; <jockey> see 'jock'). I feel I'm missing something obvious.

I had considered <-et> as a suffix though, but not <-ete>. In checking through Etymonline, I found evidence for the word-forming element <-et> but not <-ete>.

If <-ey> is not a suffix, then the word sums would be this:
mone + y --> mone/ + y --> mony --would not work as adding vowel suffix to single, silent, final e would cause <e/>
mone/ + et + ary --> monetary
mone + y + es --> mone/ + y/i + es --> monies

I'm re-resolving Pete's thinking here and using the suffix <-ey>:
mone/ + ey --> money
mone/ + et + ary --> monetary
mone/ +ey/i + es --> monies

If anyone has evidence of <-ey> as a suffix, please send it along. Thanks!
Lisa B

Lisa Barnett
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Well Lisa, what a wonderful question!
I've never considered the structure of this word. Because of your question I went over to Etymonline to see what information I might find to guide my own morphological analysis. (Remember, Etymonline gives us NO morphological information -- just etymological.) What I found is quite fascinating...

money (n.)
mid-13c., "coinage, metal currency," from Old French monoie "money, coin, currency; change" (Modern French monnaie), from Latin moneta "place for coining money, mint; coined money, money, coinage," from Moneta, a title or surname of the Roman goddess Juno, in or near whose temple money was coined; perhaps from monere "advise, warn" (see monitor (n.)), with the sense of "admonishing goddess," which is sensible, but the etymology is difficult. Extended early 19c. to include paper money.

I love it when we find etymologies that etymologists like Douglas Harper at Etymonline is not sure about!

I don't know enough about French structure to know how to interpret the French root monoie[i] that you found.

The Latin [i]monata
coming from a proper bound leaves me unsure of how to use that information to interpret the English structure. The root that I understand the best here is the Latin mon(ere) for "advise, warn". That Latin infinitive suffix that I've identified in parentheses often is associated with a final non-syllabic <e> in English. It makes me want to consider that <money> could have this word structure <mone/ + ey>.

Your questions are so rich Lisa. However, your understanding will increase so much by developing and posing your hypotheses about word structure with word sums.

You write:

"<monetary> this word maintains the <e>..."
I'm not sure about that.

Do you mean: mone + tary --> monetary
I have no evidence of a <-tary> suffix.
I'd be more comfortable considering: mone/ + etary --> monetary

Perhaps: mone + ete/ + ary --> monetary

I'm not sure about that <-ete>!

"...but the <y> is gone and was not changed to an <i>"

In my word sum, we don't even have a <y> to change to <i> because we are presuming a <-ey> suffix is removed from <money>

mone/ + ey --> money
mone/ +ete/ + ary --> monetary

Please remember, these are just word sums I'm using to guide my thinking. I'm not concluding anything here, I'm just exploring the possible evidence. But that exploring is so much more productive when we get to look at the concrete representation of my hypotheses.

You write:
"...<moneies> this word loses the <e> but the <y> is changed to an <i>.

Is this what you mean?

mone/ + ey/i + es --> monies

If <-ey> is a suffix here, this word sum is completely coherent. If we are wondering about whether to use the <-s> or the <-es> suffix, one way to know we need the <-es> is if adding that suffix causes a change in the spelling. The <y>/<i> change means that we need <-es>. It is also useful to know that there is no such thing as an *<-ies> suffix!

I'm going to stop there (have to run to class!) but I want to emphasize that I am not concluding anything here, just tossing out some thoughts to consider.

A key thing to know is that until we provide clear evidence of <-ey> as suffix in <money>, not only is it OK to treat the word "money" as a base <money> -- that is what we are compelled to do as scientists. Scientists don't draw conclusions that are deeper than they can prove.

Remember an incomplete analysis is always an invitation for later learning. If <money> is complex, but I treat it as a base, my analysis is not false, it's just incomplete.

And the same with <monetary>. There is no NEED for this word to share a base with <money>. Perhaps it just shares a root.

I can think of these word sums:

monet(e/) + ary --> monetary
monet(e/) + ize --> monetize

The (e/) is marking a 'potential <e>'.
So perhaps there is a <money> base and <monet(e)> base that share the same Latin root.

This makes me very curious to find evidence of a base <mone> and analysis that can link these words, but until then, I'm happy to let <money> and <monet(e)> remain my working hypothesis.

I'm hopeful more word scientists out there can refine our thinking further!

Thanks for the great question!

Peter Bowers
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