Beautyism and Friends

By Maeve Maddox

It’s not in my two main dictionaries yet, but beautyism has found a place in the catalogue of English words ending in -ism:

Beautyism in the Workplace: Disguised Discrimination

Jawahar and Mattsson (2005) investigated sexism and beautyism effects in employment processes using experimental research.

The suffix -ism has been a prolific source of English nouns since the Middle Ages, but this newest use, to form words that denote perceived superiority or discrimination, is fairly recent and has produced the following nouns:

ageism: Prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age; age discrimination, especially against the elderly.

racism: prejudice and antagonism towards people of other races, especially those felt to be a threat to one’s cultural or racial integrity or economic well-being.

sexism: prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.

beautyism: prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination on the basis of physical attractiveness or lack of it.

On the Ngram chart, the word racism begins a dramatic rise in the 1930s. Sexism and ageism begin their rise at the end of the 1960s. Beautyism barely shows in comparison with the others, but is on the graph beginning in 1971. The OED added these additional definitions for the use of the suffix -ism in 2004:

a. Forming nouns with the sense ‘belief in the superiority of one [something] over another’; as racism, sexism, speciesism, etc.

b. Forming nouns with the sense ‘discrimination or prejudice against on the basis of [something]; as ageism, bodyism, heightism, faceism, lookism, sizeism, weightism, etc.

Some other uses of -ism

To form nouns that name the process or completed action of a verb in -ize:
baptize/baptism
criticize/criticism,
exorcize/exorcism
plagiarize/plagiarism
ostracize/ostracism

To form nouns that name the action or conduct of a class of persons:
hero/heroism
patriot/patriotism
despot/despotism

To form the name of a system of theory or practice, sometimes on the name of the subject or object, and sometimes on the name of its founder:
Arianism
Buddhism
Conservatism
Puritanism
Platonism
Feminism

To form a noun denoting a peculiarity or characteristic, especially of language:
Americanism
Gallicism
archaism
colloquialism
solecism
sophism
witticism

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


Share


Leave a comment: