Is the "-ney" in "hackney" a diminutive suffix?
What are some other words with the same suffix? Honey, Whitney,...?
Hackney is a placename, once a parish northwest of London in the County of Middlesex; the name derives from OE Hacan ieg, Haca's isle, designating the meadows rising out of the marshes along the Thames.
The superior grazing afforded by these meadows made the area famous for its horses, which became known as hackneys. The term designated a light horse: not a small horse but an ordinary riding horse, as opposed to the heavy horse which was used for drawing heavy loads or ridden by a fully armored knight in combat.
That name subsequently passed from the horses to a form of light carriage which was the ancestor of the modern taxicab.
The shortened version, hack, came to designate horses offered for hire; this use was eventually extended, figuratively and derogatorily, to hired workers, particularly prostitutes and writers.
No, this ending is not dimiutive. A partial list of words (including names) can be obtained on an Ubuntu Linux system easily:
$ grep 'ney$' /usr/share/dict/words Barney Britney Brittney Cagney Carney Chaney Cheney Cockney Courtney Delaney Disney Haney Hockney Kinney McCartney McKinney Mooney Mulroney Orkney Penney Rodney Romney Rooney Sidney Sweeney Sydney Taney Tawney Tunney Whitney attorney baloney blarney boloney boney chimney chutney cockney gurney hackney honey jitney journey kidney looney money phoney stoney tourney
No obvious pattern emerges among these words which would suggest that "ney" functions as some kind of independent unit.
Nouns that end in the [n] sound can often form adjectives ending in [ni]. This is usually written "ny". Note that in the above list, "boney" and "stoney" are just misspellings. The correct spellings are "bony" and "stony".
"Baloney" was derived from "bologna", probably by way of "bologna sausage" which is just called "bologna", a confusing spelling to semi-literates who turned it into "baloney".
There is no obvious connection among nouns like "money", "honey", or "attorney". Moreover, there are nouns which end with the same syllables, but are spelled just with a "y", rather than "ey", like "pony" or the flower "peony". "Pony" could just as easily be spelled "poney". There is no rule by which we can deduce that "honey" and "money" do not sound like "pony" or "phony". The "ey" spelling is not what encodes the difference. They just have to be memorized.
It's a guess. A shot in the dark, so to speak.
If I had access to the Oxford English Dictionary I'd check there first, but I don't. I'm left with etymonline dictionary. It could be that -ney is a deviation or reflects the morphological change of the word, new.
Old English neowe, niowe, earlier niwe "new, fresh, recent, novel, unheard-of, different from the old; untried, inexperienced," from Proto-Germanic newjaz (cf. Old Saxon niuwi, Old Frisian nie, Middle Dutch nieuwe, [...] Danish and Swedish ny, Gothic niujis "new")
Otherwise it could derive from the Dutch ny
Adjective ny (neuter nyt, definite and plural ny or nye, comparative nyere, superlative nyest)
Hypothesis (I'm guessing here) It could be that "ney" was tagged onto the names of British towns that were growing and developing from the the middle ages and onwards. But as I'm not a historian, I am not going to spend the next two or four hours researching into the dates of towns, to see whether a smaller or older town/village existed earlier. I trust someone more expert than I will provide an answer.
Definitely, food for thought.