- The suffix -esque means “like” or “resembling.”
- You can add -esque to almost any noun, including proper nouns.
- Use restraint. Too many -esque words in the same passage may seem clumsy and repetitive.
- Don’t pile on redundant suffixes that mean the same thing as -esque (e.g., “picturesque-like”).
If someone called you a statue, you might not find it so flattering. However, if someone called you statuesque, you would probably thank them for the compliment. What does the suffix -esque mean? Can you add -esque to any word? Here come the answers!
Meaning of -esque suffix
This suffix means “in the manner of, resembling.” So statuesque means suggestive of a statue in dignity, grace, or beauty. Is there another way to express the idea behind -esque? You could use an adjective. For instance, instead of saying that something is lionesque, you could use adjectives to describe the qualities that remind you of a lion: proud, majestic, fear-inspiring, feline, etc. You could also see if the similar suffix -like works: The man was lionlike.
How to use -esque
What do you do if you can’t find a preexisting -esque word that fits? It’s not very often that English allows you to invent a word on the spot, but in this case it’s acceptable. You can add -esque to almost any noun. For example, if you think that your neighbor resembles Abraham Lincoln, you can describe his face as Lincolnesque.
You can attach it to the names of people or groups of people (Namath-esque and Romanesque). You can also attach it to a regular old noun (lionesque).
Does -esque need a hyphen?
Does -esque need a hyphen? No, the hyphen is optional. And don’t worry if your spelling checker puts a red squiggly line under your novel -esque words. The alert lets you know that the word isn’t in the spelling checker’s dictionary; that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. But if the hyphen is unnecessary, why ever would you add it?
Imagine you were reading an ESPN article and you find this quote:
If you aren’t familiar with football, you might not know that Namath is the name of a former football player. So you look up Namathesque in a dictionary, but you won’t find it there. The hyphen alerts readers that the -esque word might be a unique one. If you see the hyphen, you would probably search for Namath on the Internet rather than in a dictionary.
In other cases, a hyphen can make an -esque word a little easier to read, especially if you’re adding -esque to a word that already ends in a vowel.
Additionally, there are some situations where you’d want to add esque to a more complex name or phrase. In these cases, consider using an en dash instead of a hyphen. Some style guides opt for an en dash to lend extra precision and communicate a clearer link than a hyphen would. According to The Chicago Manual of Style, when adding a suffix to a compound word, a multi-word proper name, or multiple connected names, use an en dash (–). An en dash can make it clear you’re attaching it to the whole multi-word string, instead of just the last word.
Words with -esque
What are some other words ending in the suffix -esque? Here are five common examples from dictionaries—arabesque, burlesque, gigantesque, grotesque, picturesque. Let’s look at some examples of people creating their own -esque words.
Can you add -esque to any word? Pretty much. What does the suffix -esque mean? It means “reminiscent of” or “in the style of.” What other questions do you have about -esque?