I'm challenging with this question:

Which word is morphologically different from others?

  1. fishy

  2. dirty

  3. pinky (answer)

  4. sneaky

Could anyone, kindly, give me some instruction on why choice 3 is correct?

1 Answer 1


If "pinky" means "the smallest finger or toe", it's really morphologically different, since it's not constructed of two morphemes, root + -y, "pinky" is a borrowing from Dutch pinkje, diminutive of Dutch pink (“little finger”). Note that there's also an alternative spelling of the word, "pinkie".

That question is tricky and allows different answers, for example "pinky" can be considered as meaning "pinkish" and in this case it's constructed of two morphemes, just the same way as the rest of the words in the question, "pink + -y". And yes, the question presupposes the knowledge of the etymology of all those word, or at least access to an etymological dictionary.

  • 1
    It is therefore bi-morphemic in Dutch, but not in English (in that meaning).
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 4, 2020 at 18:25
  • 2
    The question doesn't presuppose etymological knowledge -- the other three words are transparently derived synchronically from an existing word plus -y, while pinky (in its normal meaning) is not.
    – TKR
    Commented Jul 4, 2020 at 18:27
  • 1
    @TKR It is sneaky (!) in that, given this list of four words, the natural reading of pinky is ‘pinkish’, rather than ‘little finger’. 4 would be an equally correct answer (it’s formed by adding -y to a verb stem, whereas the others are formed by adding it to a noun stem). Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 10:29
  • 1
    @elyarabad It’s true that fish can also be a verb, but fishy is derived from the noun, not the verb; sneak, on the other hand, is derived from the verb, not the (much rarer) noun meaning ‘someone who sneaks or cheats’. Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 12:58
  • 2
    @JanusBahsJacquet I've never heard pinky used to mean "pinkish". Apparently it exists, but I doubt it's a meaning that would readily occur to most native speakers. (Though if that is the intended meaning, it would be an adjective stem, not a verb stem.)
    – TKR
    Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 19:40

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