I had to look up a word in English and was surprised at what I found.

I wanted to know how to say that a person is to "perfectionistic" which isn´t a word, I know:


Why is it that English only uses the word, "perfectionist" and not "perfectionistic"?

It might be my German mother tongue that makes me think like that since we just add an "-isch" to nouns most of the time when we use them as adjectives: Perfektionist (noun), perfektionistisch (adjective).

It´s weird that I didn´t know about this because I usually get the words right when I speak and write in English!

  • 1
    perfectionist is also the adjective form of perfectionist. – Michael Rybkin Mar 9 '18 at 13:18
  • Yeah, I get that but why is there no "-ic" added to the adjective form? Is there no suffix like that in the English language? – Marcin Nowak Mar 9 '18 at 13:19
  • In the examples of the Cambridge page, saying something is too perfectionist is like comparing it with the manner of a perfectionist only. It somehow twists my mind that there is no extra suffix to the adjective perfectionist and I am trying to find out why. – Marcin Nowak Mar 9 '18 at 13:26

‘For a band that's lacking in perfectionistic recording tactics, the songs are clean and mean.’

‘And when he was telling me we were all too perfectionistic and still too grade-conscious, I said, ‘But Sir, our grades do come out on the transcript… and low marks look terrible, you know.’’

‘Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic.’

‘It's far too perfectionistic too: of course, no one can become completely balanced in the center and dish out criticism in precisely balanced portions.’

‘Before perfectionistic pressure gets a stranglehold on you, alter your outlook.’

There's an adjective you have been looking for. I don't know why you haven't found it. P.S. Never use one dictionary.

  • Cool! I don´t know myself! I used Longmans Dictionary.I will check on that. – Marcin Nowak Mar 9 '18 at 14:18
  • Oxforddictionaries.com. – V.V. Mar 9 '18 at 14:21
  • I found it on Merrian-Webster too: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perfectionistic Longmans Dictionary has no such entry, though! I was told to use this one by an American teacher with a Ph.D. That´s why I used only that one. – Marcin Nowak Mar 9 '18 at 14:24

It is a word, but not a common one.

English is not defined by dictionaries (but good work on consulting one). Instead dictionaries react to how speakers of English use the language.

Many adjectives can be formed by adding "ic" to the end of nouns. But this pattern is not completely productive. So we do have "Idealist" -> "Idealistic". But we tend not to use "Buddhist" -> *"Buddhistic". This might be because the noun can be used attributively "A Buddhist sculpture" which means that there is no great need for the adjective.

However, it doesn't mean that "Buddhistic" isn't a word. A word's nature is not determined by its form, (which sounds like a very Buddhistic saying). If enough people use the word, then the dictionaries will pick it up.

Now "Perfectionist" can also be used attributively so there is less need for a separate adjective, but nevertheless some people are forming "perfectionistic". For example Forbes.com writes "Thousands of women today are exhausting themselves through their perfectionistic overfunctioning." And dictionaries are starting to pick up it.

The existence of a German word is not a good guide to whether an English word exists. In particular, many English nouns can be used as adjectives or even verbs without adding a suffix.

  • That´s interesting. I didn´t mean to say that because it works in German it should work in English as well. I knew by experience that this is true for other words in English that I had heard before, and I couldn´t understand why it wouldn´t work for this one. – Marcin Nowak Mar 9 '18 at 17:13
  • The concept of how "productive" an affix is maybe useful to you. Very productive affixes can be attached to any word. Less productive ones can only be attached to some words. "ic" is quite productive, but perhaps less productive than the equivalent in German. – James K Mar 9 '18 at 17:37

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