6

I realized -ship describes the number of people doing something, for example, membership, readership, and ridership. That's why I try googling the following words to see if they exist:

  1. listenership
  2. customership

However, it seems that only listenership refers to the number of listeners listening to something. So, what type of noun can precede -ship?

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  • 2
    The basic meaning of [noun]ship is 'the fact or state of being a [noun]'. The sense 'the number of people who are [nouns] is an extension of that meaning and only applies in a few cases. Apr 23 at 7:56
  • Google isn't really a useful guide to good English. Consider using a dictionary (such as the free Wiktionary) instead. Apr 23 at 14:30

3 Answers 3

4

Here's a list from Merriam-Webster:
M-W -ship

noun suffix
1: state : condition : quality
friendship
2: office : dignity : profession
clerkship
3: art : skill
horsemanship
4: something showing, exhibiting, or embodying a quality or state
township, fellowship
5: one entitled to a (specified) rank, title, or appellation
his Lordship
6: the body of persons participating in a specified activity
readership, listenership

The sense you were referring to is (6) above.

(including comment as suggested by dbmag9)

Note: Not all affixes are productive. (M-W)- continuing to be used in the formation of new words or constructions.
There are words that use that suffix, but it can't be used freely to create new words.
In any case, "passengership", would be too easily confused with "passenger ship".

Just be guided by the existing dictionary words.

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  • 1
    But why don't people use "customership" or "passengership"? Is there a rule to govern which noun going with "-ship" in this sense?
    – Ken Adams
    Apr 23 at 5:00
  • 7
    Not all affixes are productive. (M-W)- continuing to be used in the formation of new words or constructions. There are words that use that suffix, but it can't be used freely to create new words. In any case, "passengership", would be too easily confused with "passenger ship". Just be guided by the existing dictionary words. Apr 23 at 5:09
7

In lots of cases adding the suffix "-ship" is similar to following the word with "state of being". For example, "friend state of being" would be "friendship". This works for several other words such as internship, fellowship, leadership, citizenship, apprenticeship, membership, ownership, sportsmanship, craftmanship, dictatorship, and censorship.

Championship and courtship have slightly different meanings that are more like "being in the process of".

"Worship" is one that you'll just have to memorize.

"Battleship", "warship", "flagship", "gunship", "troopship", "spaceship", "airship", "droneship", "starship", and "antiship" have meanings related to ships as opposed to being in a state of battle, war, flag, gun, troop, space, air, drone, star, or anti.

Technically there are hundreds of words that you can pair up with "ship" if you want to win a game of Scrabble, but if you want to have a "normal conversation" with someone, you should stick to using the the words above or words that you've already heard other people use. Most of the words in the dictionary that end in "ship" have fallen out of use.

It's also not safe to add "ship" to the end of similar words and hope for the best. "Employeeship" and "contractorship" are not words even though "internship" and "apprenticeship" are. "Enemyship" and "buddyship" are not words while "friendship" is.

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    "membership" means both the state of being a member and also the set of entities who are in that state. E.g. "The membership of the Senate is mostly old white men."
    – Barmar
    Apr 23 at 14:53
  • +1 "It's also not safe to add "ship" to the end of similar words and hope for the best." Very important. You may be able to do that with some suffixes, but this is not one of them.
    – automaton
    Apr 23 at 19:46
  • Authorship I think is good. Right?
    – Lambie
    Apr 23 at 20:47
  • Yes - and definitely if you're in the writing/publishing business.
    – phil1008
    Apr 23 at 21:20
0

The vessel kind of ship is etymologically distinct from the X-hood kind of ship; they just happen to look and sound exactly the same in English (learn at least one other Germanic language to appreciate this point clearly!).

Yes, it is a bit funny that listenership means the size of the audience, how many are listening, and not just *listenerhood; but this is a natural extension of the "strict" meaning.

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