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I encounter such a sentence in a homework assignment:

It seems that the burn-in is adequate, that they are all converging to the same-ish posteriour value, and that there is good mixing.

I don't know if the -ish is appended here just to reduce the extent of sameness? Is it just a synonym of similar or alike and etc?

And can I add -ish to any adjective to convey a same-ish meaning?

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    ish = 'or thereabouts'
    – mcalex
    Apr 2, 2019 at 9:16
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    Whenever I hear someone say 'this-or-that-ish', I append in my mind the words: 'Well, sort of!'
    – yunzen
    Apr 2, 2019 at 9:19
  • "... they are all converging to similar posterior(u)r values". And "same-ish" would imply that they values were similar enough for whatever purpose they were being used.
    – alephzero
    Apr 2, 2019 at 13:24
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    I agree with your conclusion that it "reduces the extent of X-ness". In this sentence I would replace "the same-ish" by "almost the same" or "roughly the same" Apr 2, 2019 at 22:07
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    To the extent of my Chinese knowledge, it means "差不多”
    – The Photon
    Apr 3, 2019 at 0:54

3 Answers 3

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Adding an '-ish' at the end of a word is generally done in informal contexts, mostly to make the reference sound deliberately vague and approximate. (Source)

Here, the speaker has added the suffix because he isn't completely sure of the similarity with the posterior value.

You can add the suffix to words, to bring about a hint of uncertainty. For example,

Person 1 : What time is it?
Person 2 : I don't know. I think it should be around twelve-ish?


Update

As pointed out by Michael Kay, if the adjective points to an extreme, then '-ish' implies less extreme; 'small-ish' is less small than small; 'cold-ish' is less cold than cold; 'same-ish' is less similar than same. So '-ish' not only conveys approximation but can also assign less of the characteristic than if "-ish" were omitted.

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    Note that if the adjective points to an extreme, then -ish implies less extreme; small-ish is less small than small; cold-ish is less cold than cold; same-ish is less similar than same. So it's not just approximate or vague; it's explicitly assigning less of the characteristic than if "-ish" were omitted. Apr 2, 2019 at 22:02
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Another answer already explains the meaning of -ish, but I'd like to address this question you also asked:

can I add -ish to any adjective to convey a same-ish meaning?

My answer to that would be: perhaps – but don't overdo it.

The suffix works well for some adjectives, such as colors:

They're so slow that sedentary that algae grows on their coats, giving sloths a greenish tint that can be used as camouflage in the trees. (Indianapolis Star, 2018)

However, I would NOT recommend applying the suffix haphazardly to just about any adjective. There are many cases where an -ish suffix would sound, well, amateurish, where it would probably be better to avoid using it, especially in formal contexts.

For example, consider size adjectives. Adjectives that connote extremes (such as tiny, infinitesimal, massive, or vast) don't work very well with -ish, and the ngrams reflect that.

Also, if a friend asked if I was hungry, I suppose I could say, "I'm hungryish," but most natives would opt for a phrase like, "I'm kind of hungry," or "I'm a little hungry," instead, and the ngrams support that, too.

Other adjectives that sound odd with -ish would include: delicious, tired, or miserable, but faint and loud seem to work okay:

Two-thirds the way along the Arcturus-to-Vega line brings you to a pattern of four faintish stars resembling the shape of the stone block (The Telegraph, 2017)

On Monday night, a few dozen noodleists came out for cocktails, soup, loudish Ramones and the bar's retro, antique-radio vibe. (New York Times, 2014).

If your spellchecker puts a red squiggly line under a word with -ish, it might be better to use an adverb like rather instead. (For example: He was rather thirsty after the game might be a safer option than He was thirstyish after the game.)

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    often when writing, people (at least in Britain), place a hyphen before the -ish suffix. There is a well known brand of ready made sauces in the UK, and they used to have TV ads featuring the same family. One seasonal ad played on the fact that people would have leftover turkey for some time after Christmas. The mother announced at supper time that they were having curry. The daughter speaks for them all when she says "It isn't turkey again, is it?" Mother says "Well, it's turk-ish". Apr 2, 2019 at 19:32
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    Some devout UK Jews describe themselves thus and denounce their less fervent brethren as being "Jew-ish". Apr 2, 2019 at 19:35
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    The reason "massive-ish" doesn't work very well is because "massive" means "very big" and "ish" means" not very", so "massive-ish" contradictory. Apr 3, 2019 at 2:53
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    Isn't there an extra "that" in "They're so slow that sedentary that algae grows on their coats"? I see you are quoting the Indianapolis Star word by word, but I think it's a copy/paste error from the original National Geographic article Apr 3, 2019 at 9:21
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    @Acccumulation - I don't know that -ish means 'not very'. I think it would be more accurate-ish to say it means 'vaguely', 'in the region of' or 'tending towards'. Dec 22, 2023 at 8:00
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Same-ish basically means- kind of similar/somewhat similar.

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