Can anyone explain what's the difference between the 4 words:

  • nucleus
  • nucleolus
  • nucleoid
  • nuclear

Is there something special about the suffixes -eus or -id and -lus which implies about their meanings?

Also think about these words in scientific context.

  • The difference between them should be clear from their definitions. Are you really asking why these words ended up being spelled the way that they did? – Jason Bassford Aug 11 '18 at 23:40
  • @JasonBassford don't they look to you very similar? I think the definition is derived from their form. If you don't find this question in-topic I'll take it to English language &a usage Stachexchange. – 0x90 Aug 11 '18 at 23:41
  • But definitions don't necessarily work that way. Look at the word book. First it can be a noun, adjective, or verb. Within those, it has many different meanings. In all of those definitions (or senses), the word is spelled exactly the same way. It's form doesn't affect anything. In fact, looking only at nucleus, Merriam-Webster lists four different meanings of the word with the same spelling. (I would ask for the same clarification over at ELL too.) – Jason Bassford Aug 11 '18 at 23:49
  • Now, you could be asking for the etymology (or "word root") for all similar scientific meanings of the four words—and why a particular suffix might have been chosen? – Jason Bassford Aug 11 '18 at 23:54
  • @JasonBassford for me it's a question like why wavelet is named wavelet. For non native it's not obvious that wavelet is a small wave. – 0x90 Aug 11 '18 at 23:55

The words nucleus and nucleolus both end in -us, a fairly common noun ending in English words of Latin origin. (Latin masculine nouns of the "second declension" ended in -us in the nominative singular, and -i in the nominative plural: these forms are typically used as the English singular and plural.) Both of these words are used as nouns. More specifically, many Latin diminutive endings contain -l-, and this is what is present in the ending -olus: nucleolus is a Latin diminutive of nucleus, and this corresponds to the meaning in English which refers to a smaller body contained inside the nucleus. You can't infer the exact meaning of nucleolus from its form, but it can serve as a hint.

The word nuclear ends in -ar, a somewhat common adjective ending in English words of Latin origin. (The adjective ending -ar is a variant form of the more commonly seen adjective ending -al: typically, -ar shows up only in words where L is already present in the base.) This is consistent with the fact that nuclear is mostly used as an adjective (it can also be used as a noun, but a number of English nouns have the same form as adjectives, and can be analyzed as being derived from adjectives).

The word nucleoid ends in -oid, which is often an adjective ending, and also sometimes a noun ending, typically used to form words meaning "resembling X", "related to X" (or "something that resembles X", "something that is related to X").

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.