Thursday, January 02, 2014


 Eileen asked about a word that she saw in a financial management ad: stewardship. Today, it refers to the duties of a trained advisor, especially in managing the property of clients, their financial affairs, their estates, and so on. Originally, a steward ran the household for a master, overseeing the planning and preparation of meals, directing the domestic staff, regulating household expenditures, etc.

The word stewardship breaks into three sections. The –ward in steward meant a keeper or guardian; the stew- element may have come from the Old English stig, a house. In this case, the –ship suffix denotes the office or rank assigned to a designated person.

Used in other words, -ship can denote the state of being expressed by the noun (friendship, authorship, partnership), or it can designate the qualities associated with a person (lordship, craftsmanship, workmanship).

The suffix –ward can also refer to direction, as in toward, homeward, inward, outward, and backward. But –ward in the managerial sense of keeper has a long and colorful history. One could be a bearward, beeward, boatward, bridgeward, castleward, churchward, fireward, gateward, hogward, or millward. I’m content to be a wordward.

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

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