I was wondering about the ending -sk(+ optionally an additional vowel) used to create adjectives from names of the nations in Nordic (at least Danish and Swedish) as well as some Slavic languages (at least Polish and Croatian).

For example (the following lines are in format: English: Danish, Swedish, Croatian, Polish):

  • Danish: Dansk, Danska, Dansk[i/a]*, Duńsk[i/a]*
  • Polish: Polsk, Polska, Poljsk[i/a]*, Polsk[i/a]*
  • English: Engelsk, Engelska, Englesk[i/a]*, Angielsk[i/a]*

* -i - masculine form, -a - feminine form. Not to add irrelevant details I didn't mention suffixes for neuter and plural forms.

Don't know about the other languages but in Polish -sk[i/a] is used also for some other adjectives:

  • król (king) -> królewski/królewska (royal)
  • papież (pope) -> papieski/papieska (papal)
  • zielarz (herbalist) -> zielarski/zielarska (herbal)
  • niebo (sky) -> niebieski/niebieska (blue)

And many surnames:

  • kowal (blacksmith) -> Kowalski/Kowalska (the most popular Polish surname)
  • jabłoń (apple-tree) -> Jabłoński/Jabłońska
  • wiśnia (cherry) -> Wiśniewski/Wiśniewska


Is it something Proto-Indo-European, or it's just a coincidence? If it's a coincidence, how did it appear in Nordic languages? (If I'm not mistaken -ski ending was used already in Proto-Slavic.)

  • 1
    I think for the other Germanic languages, it's the cognate to English "ish" or German "isch." Modern English "sh" corresponds to Old English "sc." Oct 10, 2015 at 15:59
  • 1
    Yes. And in Latin languages there is -isco / -esco (eg theodiscus, romanesco). See wiktionary:-iskos and wiktionary:-ish. Oct 11, 2015 at 9:25
  • 1
    There is an english word for "papieski". It's "papal". Feb 12, 2017 at 14:33

1 Answer 1


The suffix *-isk- is Indo-European. It has offspring in Greek, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic, and also in Romance, where it seems to be borrowed from Germanic.

  • Can you give any sources? Wiktionary refers to the same suffix as *-iskos
    – J-mster
    Oct 11, 2015 at 8:22
  • 4
    @J-mster. *-iskos is the suffix *-isk- plus thematic vowel plus case ending for the nominative singular.
    – fdb
    Oct 11, 2015 at 10:16
  • for the masculine nominative singular.
    – Anixx
    Oct 13, 2015 at 17:18

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