3

The suffix -ish simply defines almost, approximately.

  • Can we say 49 as 50-ish when it is referring to numbers?
  • Are 47,48,49,51,52,53 also referred to 50-ish?
  • Are "49" and "51" almost or approximately 50? Beyond that, an example for context would be helpful. – user3169 Mar 24 '16 at 5:07
  • 1
    See definition 3b of the same link. It mentions age but what it says is true for numbers in general. So, yes 50ish includes 49 and 51. – Alan Carmack Mar 24 '16 at 5:11
2

According to Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner's English Dictionary, you can use -ish in three different situations. The third usage matches your scenario:

-ish is added to words referring to times, dates, or ages to form words which indicate that the time or age mentioned is approximate.

I’ll call you guys tomorrow. Noon-ish...

The nurse was fiftyish.

Considering the meaning of '-ish' i.e. about/somewhat, when it's used with time and age, to answer your specific question, I guess you should ask "when do we use about/almost?"

I think generally we use about 50 years old when,

  1. We're not sure whether a person is 50 years old or not but his looks make us think of this approximate number. Like what witnesses do while giving descriptions to a police officer.

  2. When we know the number but we want to round it up. Like 50 years and 2 months or 49 and 8 month but it's easier to say 50 (Here I'm not thinking of the real concept of rounding up in maths because it's based on clear rules already).

So when you say "fiftyish" you mean "more or less than fifty".

  • 1
    So when the police officer asks you, "does 50-ish include 49 or 51 too?" You'd say, "yes, I'm not sure whether he's really 50 years old or not, I'm just guessing" – Yuri Mar 24 '16 at 6:14
  • 1
    You're right, but I thought maybe it would be a good idea if I include something as a reference to start with. Your answer is 'yes' BTW. Becauae -ish means 'more or less'. – Yuri Mar 24 '16 at 7:26
  • 2
    Nice answer. One note: If someone is 51 years old and we say 50-ish, that is not "rounding up." It is "rounding down," or simply "rounding." – Adam Mar 24 '16 at 7:30

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.