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-eur /ør/ is a stress-bearing non-native cohering suffix found in nouns of common gender, often corresponding to verbs with the non-native suffix -eer, e.g. masseur masseur (cf. masseren to massage), but also (rarely) on the basis of nouns (e.g. skiffeur single scull rower < English skiff) or non-native bound forms (e.g. amateur amateur). Stem allomorphy may result in sequences such as -ateur (taxateur appraiser, cf. taxeren to value) and -iseur (magnetiseur mesmerist, cf. magneet magnet). Nouns in -eur typically denote agent nouns ( someone who performs the action denoted by the (verbal) stem), as in masseur masseur; occasionally they get an instrument reading ( instrument in the action denoted by the (verbal) stem), e.g. regulateur governor, throttle. Plural forms are usually formed with -s (masseurs), occasionally also with -en (redacteurs, redacteuren editors).


-eur /ør/ is a stress-bearing suffix of French origin found in nouns of common gender, selecting the definite singular article de.

Formations in -eur often correspond to verbs with the non-native suffix -eer, but not with all verbs of this type (De Haas and Trommelen 1993: 208)(Booij 1988). The following types of verbs with the suffix have no corresponding agent noun in -eur:

  • verbs in -eer whose perfect tense is formed with the auxiliary zijn to be, that is, ergative verbs: no *promoteur next to promoveren to graduate; deserteur deserter (< ) is an exception that can be explained from the fact that the verb deserteren to desert had a perfect tense with hebben in earlier stages of the language;
  • psychological verbs in -eer: no *interesseur next to interesseren to interest, no *irriteur corresponding to irriteren to irritate;
  • -eer verbs with an obligatory indirect object: no *refereur corresponding to refereren aan to refer to;
  • obligatory reflexive -eer verbs: no *distantieur corresponding to zich distantiëren to dissociate oneself.
A few formations in -eur derive from nouns, e.g. skiffeur single scull rower (< English skiff), chroniqueur chronicler (spelling suggests that this is a direct loan, cf. kroniek chronicle) and ambassadeur ambassador (< ambassade embassy). Other -eur words neither correspond to a verb nor to a noun, e.g. the personal nouns auteur author and coureur driver, and a few nouns referring to things and concepts such as mitrailleur machine gun or terreur terror, terrorism. It is clear that a number of -eur derivations are direct loans from French, cf. e.g. directeur, amateur and terreur(Van der Sijs 2010).

Formations in -eur are typically agent nouns, denoting male persons engaging in some activity (directeur director, masseur masseur). Several nouns in -eur are instrument names (e.g. regulateur governor, throttle).


The polysemy of the category is systematic and can be accounted for by means of an extension schema Agent > Impersonal Agent > Instrument ((Booij 1986: 116)).

There are a number of apparent allomorphs, e.g. -oneur (collectioneur collector), -iseur (magnetiseur mesmerist), -teur (expediteur shipping agent), -adeur (assuradeur insurance agent) and -seur (regisseur (film, stage) director); these, however, are better analyzed as cases of stem allomorphy, as the same stem is found in the corresponding verbs (e.g. collectioneren to collect, magnetiseren to megnetize, to mesmerize, etc). -ateur (as in taxateur appraiser), however, is a slightly different case, given that the corresponding verb is taxeren to value, but the same allomorph is found in other derivations like taxatie taxation.


De Haas and Trommelen (1993: 209) alternatively suggest that -ateur is a combination of -eur and a suffix -at that may never be the last suffix, and that is found in other derivations like taxatie taxation as well. The -t in directeur director (cf. the verb dirigeren to direct (an orchestra, etc.)) would then be an allomorph of this -at suffix).

The female counterpart of -(a)teur derivations is formed with the suffix -ice replacing -eur (directrice female director, informatrice information lady plus exceptional ambassadrice female embassador) (De Haas and Trommelen 1993: 212), and with -euse for all other cases of -eur (masseuse). Formations in -(at)eur occur frequently in nominal compounds, both as righthand members (sportmasseur sports masseur, gevangenisdirecteur prison director, personeelsadministrateur human resources administrator) and as lefthand member (mitrailleursnest machine gun nest, strong point, redacteursbaan editor's job, directeurenshit director's fuss, redacteurenoverleg editor meeting). Note that there is almost always a linking morpheme, usually -s, rarely -en, when the -eur formation occurs as the lefthand part. -eur derivations are also found in copulative compounds such as geneesheer-directeur medical superintendent and redacteur-uitgever someone who is both an editor and a publisher. -(a)teur derivations cannot be input to further derivation, except for diminutive formation with the predictable allomorph -tje (directeurtje small, cute, or despiccable director).


The noun amateur amateur differs from other agent nouns in -eur in occurring as lefthand member of nominal compounds without a linking morpheme and with an intersective (i.e. adjective-like) semantics (amateurkok amateur cook, someone who is an amateur as a cook) and allowing abstract noun formation by means of -isme (amateurisme amateurism). Moreover, amateur has no morphologically marked female counterpart.

Interieur interior is of neuter gender and has a different type of semantics.

There are a few adjectives ending in -eur, e.g. inferieur inferior and superieur superior. These forms are perhaps to be analyzed as containing (another) -eur, but assuming a (non-productive) adjectival suffix -ieur is another possibility.

Plural formations of words with -eur is usually in -s, with the two exceptions directeurs, directeuren directors and redacteurs, redacteuren editors(De Haas and Trommelen 1993: 208).

Booij suggests that the distribution of the plural suffixes is partially governed by phonological factors (the trochaic output constraint(Booij 2002: 32)).

The suffix -eur competes with other non-native agent noun forming suffixes such as -(at)or (regulateur, regulator). Occasionally one finds two forms, with or without meaning specialization, e.g. both directeur and dirigent correspond to directie direction, but dirigent can only be used to denote someone who leads an orchestra (one of the meanings of the verb dirigeren to direct), whereas directeur is used for heads of schools, firms etcetera.

  • Booij, Geert1986Form and meaning in morphology: the case of Dutch 'agent nouns'Linguistics24503-518
  • Booij, Geert1988The relation between inheritance and argument structure: deverbal -er-nouns in DutchEveraert, Martin, Evers, Arnold, Huybregts, Riny & Trommelen, Mieke (eds.)Morphology and modularity. In honour of Henk SchultinkDordrechtForis Publications57-74
  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • 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
  • 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
  • Sijs, Nicoline van der2010Etymologiebank, http://etymologiebank.nl/
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