Header image of wall of bricks Open menu Close menu


Forming nouns.

French ‑ite, via Latin ‑ita from Greek ‑ītes.

Some examples are the names of an inhabitant of a place or country: Canaanite, Israelite, Muscovite, Seattleite. Others refer to a follower of a movement or doctrine, especially one marked by ‑ism: Hitlerite, Jacobite, Labourite, Luddite, Thatcherite, Pre-Raphaelite, Shiite, Trotskyite.

In Greek, words were often adjectives describing a mineral, with lithos, stone, understood, and the ending has become common as a mark of minerals (andesite, bauxite, chondrite, dolomite, graphite, lignite) and fossils (ammonite, stromatolite, trilobite). By extension, it has been used to form names for manufactured substances, especially explosives and hard materials (Bakelite, cordite, dynamite, ferrite, gelignite, vulcanite).

Some examples are names for constituent elements of an organism or body: cellulite, persistent subcutaneous fat; catabolite, a product of catabolism; dendrite, a short branched extension of a nerve cell; somite, each of a number of body segments containing the same internal structures.

In chemistry, names ending in ‑ite are salts of acids whose names end in ‑ous: chlorite, chromite, nitrite, phosphite, sulphite. Compare ‑ate1.

Copyright © Michael Quinion 2008–. All rights reserved. Your comments are very welcome.