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What is the essence of suffix "-al" in the words pedantic and pedantical, tyrranic and tyrannical, semantic and semantical? Does -al make a difference to the meaning of the word?  When I look up their meanings in the dictionary, beside them is the same word with "also -ic or -ical." If they have the same meaning then why do they have the -al at the end? Dictionary Examples se·man·tic  (s-mntk) also se·man·ti·cal (-t-kl) pedantic [puh-dan-tik] Also, pe·dan·ti·cal tyrannical Also tyrranic

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The words that you are analyzing,

  • semantic
  • tyrannic
  • pedantic

have two things in common. First, they are adjectives, or words that describe. Second, they all have the adjective forming -ic ending, though -ic does not signify the same etymology for each as one would expect. In all cases, -ic means to have the characteristics of or to be in the style of the root word (Random House Dictionary).

It is improtant to know the etymology of these words, and to know the English roots as well, for they are of different classes of etymological words.

  • semantic: in Eng 1655–65;  <from Greek sēmantikós > lead to French sémantique
  • tyrannic: in Eng 1530–40;  < from Latin tyrannic ( us ) < Late Latin tyrannus
  • pedantic: in Eng 1590–1600; pedant + -ic < from French pedant (or Italian pedante)

This indicates that "semantic" and "tyrannic" both came as loanwords into English in their root language(s) forms. While we do have"tyranny" and "tyrant," we do not have "semant" nor "seman," thus "semantic" does a particularly good job of illustrating that the -ic suffix on "tyrannic" and "semantic" is not affixed in English but was affixed in the original Greek, French (semantic) or Latin (tyrannic).

Yet we do indeed have "pedant." English took "pedant" itself as a loanword then made an adjective--corresponding in form and usage to tyrannic and semantic--by adding the English suffix -ic (having the characteristic or style of) to the French (or Italian) loanword "pedant" (or pedante).

  • tyranny: in Eng 1325–75; Middle English tyrannie  < Old French  < Medieval Latin tyrannia,  equivalent to Latin tyrann ( us )
  • tyrant: in Eng 1250–1300; Middle English tirant  < Old French  < Latin tyrannus  < Greek týrannos

As to the distinctions between -ic and -ical, linguistically there is no distinction: both mean precisely the same thing and can be used interchangeably, and both form adjectives from other words. If an adjective forming suffix is affixed to another adjective, then you have an additional form of adjective that can be used in the same way as the first.

Since "semantic" and "tyrranic" entered English in their root language forms with the Greek, French or Latin suffixes already forming adjectives, the only way to create a distinct English model adjective was to add the adjective forming suffix -al: sematic + -al, tyrranic + -al.

Since pedant + -ic (in Eng 1590–1600) is already an English model adjective--having been derived from the loanword "pedant"--the sake of uniformity of English model choices may be what drove the derivation in the earlier 1580s of "pedantical" from the Middle English French loanword "pédantesque."

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