-ics (?)

. A suffix used in forming the names of certain sciences, systems, etc., as acoustics, mathematics, dynamics, statistics, politics, athletics.

⇒ The names sciences ending in ics, as mathematics, mechanics, metaphysics, optics, etc., are, with respect to their form, nouns in the plural number. The plural form was probably introduced to mark the complex nature of such sciences; and it may have been in imitation of the use of the Greek plurals , , , , etc., to designate parts of Aristotle's writings. Previously to the present century, nouns ending in ics were construed with a verb or a pronoun in the plural; but it is now generally considered preferable to treat them as singular. In Greman we have die Mathematik, die Mechanik, etc., and in French la metaphysique, la optique, etc., corresponding to our mathematics, mechanics, metaphysics, optics, etc.

Mathematics have for their object the consideration of whatever is capable of being numbered or measured. John Davidson.

The citations subjoined will serve as examples of the best present usage.

Ethics is the sciences of the laws which govern our actions as moral agents. Sir W. Hamilton.

All parts of knowledge have their origin in metaphysics, and finally, perhaps, revolve into it. De Quincey.

Mechanics, like pure mathematics, may be geometrical, or may be analytical; that is, it may treat space either by a direct consideration of its properties, or by a symbolical representation. Whewell.


© Webster 1913.