From Hull AWE
Jump to: navigation, search

The suffixes -cule and -uncle, with their adjectival forms -cular and -uncular are diminutives - they mean 'small', or 'very small'. They are both extended versions of the Latin -ulus (and its variant forms -ula, -ulum, -uli and -ulae), a diminutive suffix meaning 'very small'. In English, this general diminutive has taken several forms, such as '-icle', '-acle, and '-uscle'. Some words retain their Latin forms in English, including botanical words naming plants for which scientifically-minded gardeners use the Latin names of species, rather than the common English words.

This page contains lists of words that share this suffix, arranged in their different forms. There are some links to pages giving more detail, such as inoculate and peculiar, where the implications are interesting or seem to be of use to readers of AWE. There are also links to pages on words which may appear to belong to this group, but which don't in fact do so: bascule, crapulous, scapula, and the related scapular, sedulous. There is no evidence to suggest that peculiar contains the element -ulus, and the pattern of vowels strongly indicates that it doesn't.

Latin-style suffixes in -ula, -ulum, and -ulus
English noun Latin root Approx meaning Notes
auricula see auricle below calculus calx, 'small stone, pebble', + -ulus 1) in medicine, archaic name for 'a stone', e.g. gallstone or kidney stone - a 'renal calculus'
2) (Orig) any calculation
Now one of several systems of calculation
Pebbles were used in counting and sums, as well as for games
The Calculus now usu. = differential calculus .
The verb 'to calculate' is cognate
(pl. calendulae or calendulas
calendae 'calendar', + -ulus The common marigold (botanical) Seen as an indicator of weather, or time, so connected with 'calendar'
cannula canna 'reed', 'cane'+ -ula' medical: 'small hollow tube to pass liquids reeds and canes were used as pipes, of all sorts; so canna came to mean 'tube', 'pipe'
convolvulus con-volvĕre 'to roll up together', 'to wrap round' Genus of plants including bindweed & garden plants like Morning Glory
copula co[m] 'together' + ap-ĕre 'fasten, fit' + -ula 'a joiner', spec. 1) verb 'to be' in grammar]],
2) with various technical meanings in other subjects
cumulus (pl. cumuli) cuma 'a heap' + -ulus Mostly a huge rounded 'summer cloud'
Also 2) (Medical) a thickening, or accumulation of cells, round the ovum in the ovarian follicle
Odd that 'large cloud mass' is derived <- Latin diminutive
See also curricul-
curr- 'to run' + -culum orig. 'a running', 'course', 'race'
now always 'a course of studies'
fibula (pl. fibulae or fibulas contraction of figibula, from figĕre 'to fix' + -ula 'a little fastening', 'a brooch'
The 'splint' bone: the thinner bone in human lower leg

Leg bone looks like tongue of a brooch or clasp
homunculus, homuncule homo 'man' + -unculus 1) a very small person
2) Miniature human supposedly contained in sperm; grew in pregnancy in mother
3) Schematic representation of a human scaled in terms of e.g. importance of sense of touch
2 is a quite outmoded theory of conception.

modulus modus 'measure' + -ulus Various technical terms in mathematical sciences. Often used with a defining term (e.g. Young's modulus) to label a constant
pabulum pābulum from pāscere 'to feed' 'food', sometimes mere roughage or pap;
fodder; fuel,
Now mostly 'food for thought' -
of a limited, bland or insipid sort.
primula primus 'first' + -ula 'the first little [flower]' [of spring] The full Latin name is primula veris 'firstling of spring'
pustule pus 'pus' + -ulus A pimple, small lesion, on the skin
Used figuratively in various biological descriptions
Also adj. pustular and (rarer) verb pustulate
querulous querī 'to complain' + -ulus petulant, whining, quarrelsome cognate with English quarrel
reticulum reticular, reticulated rete 'net + -iculum' various biological structures, including 2nd stomach of a cow, the 'tripe', resembling a net; often a membrane
speculum specere 'to look [at]' + -ulum Medical instrument to help look inside orifices cf spectacle below
tumulus (pl. tumuli [?] tumēre 'to swell' + -ulus An ancient burial mound Used in archaeology. Plural: Tumuli
'animula, vagula, blandula - Latin poem

animula, vagula, blandula is a little poem attributed to the Roman Emperor Hadrian, and much quoted or alluded to.

Latin text English version
Animula vagula blandula Pale little vagrant soul, animus 'soul' + -ula; vagus 'wandering' + -ula; blandus 'pleasant' + -ula
hospes comesque corporis my body's guest and friend,
quae nunc abibis where are you living now,
in loca pallidula rigida nudula in some pale, cold, bare place? - pallidus 'pallid' + -ula; rigidus 'inflexible' + -ula; nudus 'bare' + -ula
nec ut soles dabis iocos and you'll not make your usual jokes
English suffix in '-acle'
English noun Eng. adj. Eng. verb Latin root Approx meaning Notes
binnacle - - habitāre 'to dwell' + -culus Housing for compass or light, etc, on board ship. Habitaculum [Lat} 'a little lodging' -> Spanish bitácula which decayed phonetically to binnacle by 1750
miracle miraculous - mīrārī 'to wonder', mīrus 'wonderful' A supernatural event; something to be marvelled or wondered at You may also want to see miracle play
obstacle [cf obstruct] - ob-stāre 'to stand in the way of' + -culus An 'obstruction', 'hindrance' - 'something standing in the way of'
oracle oracular - orāre 'to orate, speak' + -cules 'The mouthpiece of the gods' Originally, priest[ess] who transmits supposedly supernatural messages
Later, also a place where the gods spoke, such as Delphi
pentacle pentacular - penta- 'five' + -culum Five-pointed star Loosely, any magic symbol with 5 (sometimes 6) points
pinnacle - - pinna 'feather' + -culus The top, or peak (orig. of a building, tower etc) "It is likely," says OED, "that the architectural sense of the Latin word arose in military slang by analogy with the plume on a helmet."
receptacle - - receptāre 'to harbour or shelter [a fugitive, etc]' + -culum 1) 'vessel to hold liquids'
2) '[biological] organ to contain fluid'
3) Generally, something to hold an article, solid or liquid
spectacle (x2) spectacular spectate spectāre frequentative form of specere 'to look at
(1) 'a public display [for entertainment]', 'a show'
(2) 'something worth seeing', 'a sight'
(3) 'a device for seeing better' (usu. a pair of spectacles, to correct sight of both eyes).
spiracle spiracular - spīrā[re] 'to breathe' + -culus Small opening, orig of volcanos & similar geological phenomena;
later, for breathing, usually in lower animals
Also, 'blow-hole' of whales
tabernacle tabernacular taberna 'tent' 1) temporary dwelling place, a tent;
2) a shrine, elaborate canopy, etc
3) a resting-place for e.g. the mast of a river-boat
First used for the tented shrine carried by the Jews out of Egypt, the 'dwelling' of 'the Highest'
tentacle tentacular 'of nature of a tentacle'
tentaculate 'with tentacles'
- tentā[re] 'to test, feel' (or temptāre + -culus An organ of feeling; the 'arm' of an octopus or squid
English suffix in '-cule'
English suffix in '-icle'
Don't confuse the spelling -icle (which is what this group is about) with other words ending in -ical, like 'practical', 'comical', 'cynical', 'mystical' and 'tactical'. These are formed with the suffix -al (used to make adjectives) added to a root ending in -ic.
English noun Eng. adj. Eng. verb Latin root Approx meaning Notes
majuscule (an upper case letter) majuscule 'large'; 'written in block capitals' - maius/major 'larger' + -cule (n. a capital letter
adj. large; capital [letter]
minuscule (style of handwriting) minuscule 'very small' - minus 'smaller' + -cule (n. style of manuscript handwriting
adj. very small
molecule (a unit in chemistry) molecular 'a mole' in the sense of 'a mass', + -cule see molecule|-
English noun Eng. adj. Eng. verb Latin root Approx meaning Notes
article artus. 'a joint', + -culus 1) part of something written
2) A 'piece' of non-fiction written for a periodical publication
3) A word-class in grammar
4) A matter, subject or point under discussion
5) An element or fundamental part of a belief
6) A thing; a material item in a list]]
See the separate page at article for its fuller meanings
See also articulate (below) for a different development in meanings
auricle; auricula
(pl. auriculae or auriculas)
auricular auris 'ear' + -culus 1) name of a species of primula
2) more often now in form auricle 'external ear of an animal'
3) Species of intertidal mollusc
4) Various technical terms in biology
The flower's leaves are said to resemble a boar's ear, hence English name 'Boar's-ear'
canticle - - canticum 'a song' + -iculus 'a little song', partic. 'a hymn with words from the Bible or elsewhere in early Church history' From verb canere, cantare
clavicle clavicular - clavis + -iculus 'collar-bone' (anatomy) the bone is like ancient keys, supposedly
curricle - - currere 'to run' -iculus '2-wheeled carriage' usually drawn by 2 horses abreast.
cuticle cuticular (rare) - cutis 'skin' + -culus now almost always the dead skin at the bas of nails
formerly often similar structures in biology
fascicle - - fascis 'a bundle' + -iculus 'a small bundle', (1) in various biological uses
(2) a 'signature' or section of a book published separately before all signatures are bound together & published
The fasces were a bundle of rods + an axe, carried as badge of authority.
Fascicle is cognate with fascist.
follicle follicular - -iculus 'little bag'; a small gland, usually arranged spherically round a cavity, containing an organ, commonly a hair.
orbicle, orbicule orbicular - orbis 'a globe' + -iculus a microscopically small sphere, in botany and geology
pannicle ("now rare" OED) - - pannus 'a cloth' + -iculus a membrane
particle particulate
see also particular below
- parti- 'part' + -icules a minute fragment of matter, usu. now 'sub-atomic';
an indeclinable small item of vocabulary (see particle in grammar)
pedicle/pedicule/pedicel pediculate - ped- 'foot' + -iculus 'a stalk', or 'narrow joint'
radicle - - radix 'root' + -culus a 'rootlet'
reticle - - rete 'net + -icle = reticule (1); a device for studying light
testicle testicular - testis 'witness' + -iculus male reproductive organ, the 'witness' to a man's fertility
ventricle ventricular - venter 'belly' + -culus one of the chambers of the heart
vesicle vesicular - vesica 'bladder', 'blister' + -ulus small bladder-like unit in anatomy; a cell'; a small cyst
English suffix in '-ulate', '-ule' and '-ulous'
English noun Eng. adj. Eng. verb Latin root Approx meaning Notes
acidulate acidulous acidulation acidus 'sour, acid' +-ulus slightly acid, sour; fig. 'sharp [comments, face, mood etc]'
vb.: to make sour; to 'turn' e.g. milk
animalcule - - animal 'animal' + -culus A microscopic organism, a species only visible under a microscope Now obsolete, this word was adapted by early microscopists from classical Latin 'a small animal', such as an insect
- bibulous - bibere 'to drink' + -ulus 'fond of [alcoholic] drink'; 'characterized by drinking/drunkenness' Nowadays almost always a disapproving word; it could formerly be used for 'absorbent' (of towels and so on).
capsule - (encapsulate) capsa, 'box', 'case' + -ulus A small container, esp. in common use 'a dissolving container of a dose of medicine' Several technical meanings in biological sciences.
circle circular circulate circus 'round', 'ring' + -ulusbrGreek κίρκος the mathematical figure; loose equivalents to it; fig. group of acquaintances sharing a common interest
gesticulation gesticular gesticulate gestus 'action' + -culus making a gesture', moving hands etc to emphasize speech
globule globular - globus 'globe' + -ulus A drop; a small round particle usu. liquid
granule granular granulate granum 'a grain', 'a seed' + -ulus a small particle, as in a unit of granulated sugar
- - inoculate in- 'into' + oculus ('an eye', from an Indo-European root + -ulus) See separate page at Inoculate
- Meticulous - metus 'fear' + -culosus 'careful', 'precise' See separate page at Meticulous
nodule nodular - nodus 'node', 'knot', 'joint', 'lump' Medical, 'a lump', 'a hard growth'; mineralogy, 'a small rounded unit of a [solid] substance'
peculation peculant, peculative
(both quite rare)
peculate See foot not to Peculiar (meaning)
pustule pustular pustulate (rare) pus 'pus' + -ulus A pimple, small lesion, on the skin
Used figuratively in various biological descriptions
reticule reticular, reticulated - rete 'net + -icule (1) grid of fine lines in an optical sight; 'crosshairs'
(2) a handbag made of netting
ridicule ridiculous (to) ridicule rīdēre 'to laugh' + -culus mockery, derision, amusement
English suffix in '-uncle'/'-uncular'
English noun Eng. adj. Eng. verb Latin root Approx meaning Notes
uncle avuncular - avus 'grandfather' + -unculus the sibling of a parent, in relationship to the child
carbuncle carbuncular - carbo[n]- '[piece of] charcoal', 'carbon' +-culus 1) gemstone of [fiery] red colour (specifically, to modern jewellers, a cabochon-cut garnet
2) med. inflammatory red lesion or pustule; 'a boil'
3) 'an excrescence', something unpleasant that obtrudes on the sight.
peduncle pedunculate, peduncular - ped- 'foot' + -unculus See pedicle/pedicule/pedicel above.
funiculus funicular - funis 'a rope' + -culus 'string' funiculus one of 3 separate 'strings' in spinal cord; some technical uses in Biology
funicular 'operated by a rope'
a funicular railway is one drawn up and down a slope by a cable.
Song, Funiculì, funiculà, written in 1880 by Denza for opening one in Naples.
English ending in -uscle, -u[scu]lus or -u[scu]lar
English noun adjective verb Latin root Approx meaning Notes
corpuscle corpuscular - corpus 'body' + -culus 'a small body', partic, a particle in the blood
crepuscule crepuscular - creper 'dusky', 'dark' + -usculus 'of twilight', 'dusky' French still uses la crepuscule for twilight, though is is rare in Present-day English
glandular - gland- 'gland' + -ulus To do with glands; glandular fever = Infectious mononucleosis 'glandule' was common in 17th c. for gland. Now obsolete.
macula macular, immaculate to maculate (rare) to 'spot', 'stain', 'defile' macula, 'a spot in the retina' 1) a spot in the eye or on the skin;
any thing like a spot, such as
2) a sunspot
macular damage is a major cause of blindness in the old
muscle muscular 'to muscle [in]', to coerce, to threaten (with violence) mus 'mouse' + -culus one of the organs of movement In many Indo-European languages, the movement of biceps is compared to a mouse running under the skin
ocular inoculate oculus Latin 'eye' 'to do with the eye' or optics probably cognate with 'eye', both from Indo-European oq- 'to see'
(osculum) rare & technical oscular osculate os 'mouth' + -culus 'to do with the mouth' - partic. 'kissing'
archaic geometrical 'touching a plane or curve'
biology: certain small openings in bodies
mostly jocular nowadays
[See particle above] particular See also Particular - particulate particularize
- vascular - vas 'hollow dish' + -culus (anatomy) a hollow organ, a tube