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Is there any difference between those suffixes (-dom and -ness) when both of them can be applied to a word?

Example:

  1. (uncountable) The state or quality of being rich; wealthiness, wealth, riches.
  1. (rare) Wealth; riches; richness; prosperity (Wiktionary)
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    in your example, yes: "richness" is a valid word that is commonly used, while "richdom" is not a word I've ever heard.
    – Esther
    Aug 22, 2023 at 15:41

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richdom is a rare obsolete word inherited from German. Don't use it. But when it was in use, the primary meaning was "Royal power, sovereignty" ("kingdom" was an even rarer sense of an already rare word). The only current English words I can identify that differ only by suffix -ness or -dom are heathenness and heathendom.

According to the full OED, both can be used as nouns, but only heathenness can be used as an adjective (which I confess I don't understand).


Both suffixes are still "productive", but note that -ness normally only forms abstract "nouns of state" (kindness, laziness = the states of being kind or lazy), whereas -dom (which also generates such terms) can additionally be used to form words with a (figurative) sense of ‘domain, realm’.

Hence the nonce-word Cockneydom would mean "the land where the Cockneys live", as opposed to Cockneyness, which would mean "the state / quality of being a Cockney".

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  • There's also chiefdom and chiefness, which might be more useful for learners to know but both are nouns.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 22, 2023 at 17:35
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    I did notice chiefness when trawling through onelook matches for "?????ness", but I just assumed it was a garbage entry. I see now from the full OED that it did exist with the sense The chief quality; supremacy, superiority - but it's now obsolete, with the most recent citation being 1661, so it's not obvious to me that it's useful to learners. It doesn't mean the same as chiefdom (The estate, position or dominion of a chief; headship, leadership, chief place), though. Aug 22, 2023 at 18:11

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