Saturday, September 11, 2010


Byron from Charlevoix asked about stationary and stationery—specifically, whether there was any connection between them.

Stationery has become the preferred spelling when speaking of writing materials. That includes paper, envelopes, leather business card cases, appointment books, scissors, and desk accessories of all kinds. The OED connects it with stationer, originally the name of a bookseller.

Stationary means fixed in place, not moving. It comes from a Latin word that meant standing, especially in a military posture.

There does seem to be a connection between the two words. The OED says that the original form may have been stationary ware, where stationary functioned as an adjective. Eventually, it became a stand-alone noun, and the -a- may have become an -e- because of the word stationer.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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