The English suffix -nik is of Slavic origin. It approximately corresponds to the suffix "-er" and nearly always denotes an agent noun (that is, it describes a person related to the thing, state, habit, or action described by the word to which the suffix is attached). In the cases where a native English language coinage may occur, the "-nik"-word often bears an ironic connotation.
The suffix existed in English in a dormant state for a long time, in borrowed terms. An example is raskolnik, recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary as known since 1723. There have been two main waves of the introduction of this suffix into English language. The first was driven by Yinglish words contributed by Yiddish speakers from Eastern Europe. The second surge was observed after the launch of the first Sputnik satellite by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957.
In his book The American Language, first published in 1919, H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) credited the mania for adding "-nik" to the ends of adjectives to create nouns to Al Capp's American comic strip Li'l Abner (1934–77) rather than to the influence of "Sputnik", first recorded in 1957, or "beatnik", first recorded in 1958.
Words of significant context or usage:
- Alrightnik: one who has been successful; nouveau riche
- Artnik, a UK publisher (defunct); the word predates its establishment
- Computernik: a computer geek
- Muttnik, the first dog in space
- Neatnik: a neat-freak
- No-goodnik: a lazy or incompetent person
- Peacenik: a pacifist; a hippie
Words originally used by Jews of Europe, America, and Israel, often referring to concepts related to their experiences or things happening in Israel or among the Jewish people:
- Chabadnik or Habadnik: follower of Chabad
- Jobnik: a non-combat soldier who performs secretarial work
- Kadimanik: member of United Synagogue Youth's Kadima program
- Ka-tzetnik: a Nazi concentration camp prisoner or survivor, derived from abbreviation KZ, pronounced "Ka-tzet"
- Kibbutznik: member of a Kibbutz
- Likudnik: supporter of Israeli political party Likud
- Mapainik: supporter of the historical Israeli labour party.
- Moshavnik: member of a Moshav
- Netzernik: Member of the Netzer Olami youth movement
- Nudnik: a nagging, boring or awkward person
- Shinuinik: supporter of Israeli political party Shinui
Native or constructed Slavic words originating in Slavic-speaking environments:
- Polkovnik, the commander of a polk (regiment)
- Sovkhoznik (derived from the Soviet-constructed word sovkhoz)
- Zolotnik, an obsolete Russian measure of weight
- V. V. Kabakchi, Charles Clay Doyle, "Of Sputniks, Beatniks, and Nogoodniks", American Speech, Vol. 65, No. 3 (1990), pp. 275-278 doi:10.2307/455919
- Recorded in the OED from October 1957.
- Caen, Herb (2 April 1958). "Pocketful of Notes". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
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