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-ier [i:r] is a stress-bearing, cohering suffix of Romance origin that is found in nouns of common gender referring to male persons. Inputs are Germanic or Romance concrete nouns. There is an allomorph -(e)nier; the distribution of the allomorphs is not completely predictable. The suffix is unproductive.


  • person having a function related to N

Table 1
derivation base
herbergier inn-keeper < herberg inn
winkelier shop-keeper < winkel shop
tuinier gardener < tuin garden
avonturier adventurer < avontuur adventure
koetsier coachman < koets carriage
scholier pupil < school school
rentenier renter < rente interest
glazenier stained-glass artist < glas glass
kruidenier grocer < kruiden herbs, spices

[+]Morphosyntactic properties

The Romance stress-bearing suffix -ier [i:r] combines with Germanic (herbergier) and Romance (avonturier), resulting in nouns of common gender that select the singular definite article de.

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In the case of Romance stems, it is sometimes unclear whether the –ier–formations have been formed in Dutch or were borrowed as a whole (e.g. fuselier fusilier, grenadier id, passagier passenger, poelier poulterer).

vliegenier pilot is exceptional in that it is derived from a verb (vliegen to fly).

De Haas and Trommelen (1993: 180) point out that there is one geographical person name in -ier, viz. Arabier Arab (< Arabië Arabia). Interestingly enough, someone from Saoedi-Arabië Saoudi Arabia is not called a *Saoedi-Arabier but rather Saoedi-Arabiër, with the suffix -er.

De Haas and Trommelen (1993: 181) also point at formations such as kwartier quarter (e.g. of an hour) (< kwart quart) and formulier form. If these are to be analyzed as being formed with a suffix -ier, this may very well be a different one: not only is the output subcategory different (denoting things rather than person names), gender is not common but neuter (selecting the definite article het) and plural form is uniformly in -en.

Note that there is a homograph suffix with a different pronunciation -ier /je:/ that is found in professional names such as herbergier inn-keeper and avonturier adventurer.

Plurals of -ier formations are in –s (herbergiers, avonturiers), occasionally in –en (scholieren).

[+]Morphological potential

The female variant is usually with -ierster (glazenierster female stained-glass artist, herbergierster hostess, female inn-keeper, rentenierster female rentier, tuinierster female gardener, vliegenierster female aviator), occasionally with –e (scholiere female pupil, passagiere female passenger).

Nouns in -ier may be converted into verbs, e.g. tuinieren to garden and rentenieren live on one’s private means, which may be input for nominalization again, e.g. tuinierder gardener.

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The existence of a form in –ier usually blocks other nominalizations, with the exception of tuinder market gardener, which has a slightly different semantics than regular tuinier gardener.


The general meaning of –ier formations can be described as ‘someone having to do with the base noun’; they usually denote functions or jobs.

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Middelbare scholier secondary school pupil is formed on the basis of the phrase middelbare school secondary school. Note that we are dealing with a bracketing paradox here: semantically, this is derived from the pertinent phrase, but structurally, scholier pupil is the head, as is shown by the neuter agreement in middelbaar scholiertje young/small secondary school pupil, due to the diminutive suffix.

[+]Phonological properties

-ier is a cohering suffix: syllabification does not respect the morphological boundary. -ier moreover bears main stress: 'winkel > winke'lier.

  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij