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Affixes: the building blocks of English
Affixes: the building blocks of English

-dactyly Also -dactyla, -dactyl and -dactylous.

Having fingers or toes of a given type.

[Greek daktulos, finger, plus -y3.]

An animal or person exhibiting syndactyly (Greek sun, with) has some or all of the fingers or toes united, either naturally, as in web-footed animals, or as a malformation; brachydactyly (Greek brakhus, short) is the state of having abnormally short fingers or toes; in zoology polydactyly (Greek polloi, many) is the state of having more than five fingers on a hand or toes on a foot.

Words in -dactyla are names of orders of hoofed mammals: Artiodactyla (Greek artios, even) comprises those with an even number of toes, such as pigs, camels, deer, and cattle; Perissodactyla (Greek perissos, uneven) comprises those with an odd number, such as zebras, horses, and tapirs. Other systematic names in this ending are obsolete.

The ending -dactyl either marks adjectives relating to the state indicated by -dactyly or -dactyla, or nouns indicating an individual of that nature: polydactyl, syndactyl, artiodactyl, perissodactyl. One example always a noun is pterodactyl (Greek pteron, wing), a fossil warm-blooded flying reptile of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The -dactylous ending (see -ous) generates adjectives with a similar sense to -dactyl, but which are less common: polydactylous, zygodactylous.

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