The Proper Use of -Esque

The Great “-Esque” Escapade: How To Use This Suffix Properly

You’ve probably seen the suffix -esque used before, but do you understand how it works so that you can feel confident in making use of it yourself? 

The ability to use appropriate grammar, including suffixes, can give you versatility in your writing toolbox and allow you to find new ways to express your ideas while improving your diction. 

Let’s explore the usage of the word “esque” so that you can fully grasp its function and use. 

“Esque” Meaning

First of all, it’s helpful to understand what the suffix means. “Esque” creates an adjective form of a noun, which shows that the topic in question resembles, is similar, or in the style of the chosen noun used to form the adjective. 

For example, Ernest Hemingway had a very distinctive way of writing. Therefore, if you found another author who wrote similarly, you could say that this person’s writing style is Hemingwayesque. 

The suffix forming an adjective provides new ways to make comparisons to enliven your writing. While similes and metaphors are undoubtedly helpful for this purpose, “esque” provides a bit of formality to the comparison that the former methods lack. 

However, this method is like salt: a little bit adds a nice bit of flavor, but too much can make the food inedible. Likewise, overuse of “esque” can negatively affect your writing. 

Use it sparingly to spice up your writing without causing it to become cumbersome and distracting for your readers. 

Hyphen-esque? 

Now that you have the general idea of proper usage, do you need a hyphen when combining your nouns with this suffix? 

Many phrases and expressions begin with hyphens as a necessity, then gradually the words become familiar, and the hyphen disappears. In this case, the hyphen use is optional, depending on your personal preference. 

However, some words have become so commonly used that they typically appear without the hyphen. Other times, the noun ends with the letter “e,” which looks odd when written out with a hyphen. 

  • When the sun rose over the mountains, it created a picture-esque scene. 

If you write it like this, your spell/grammar check will probably fire off, recommending that you change it. 

  • When the sun rose over the mountains, it created a picturesque scene. 

Now, just because you end up with the blaring red line beneath your creative use of -esque does not mean that you have used it improperly or even that you need to make any changes. 

The culprit may be your spell-checker’s dictionary. Since you can use practically any noun to form this usage, the chances are good that your creative adjective is not in the spell-check word bank. 

You can either ignore the suggestion or add it to your dictionary, so you won’t have to stare at the offending line any longer. 

Examples of Usage

The noun chosen to complete the expression refers to a proper noun in many cases. Sometimes, prior knowledge is necessary to understand the allusion, like in our Hemingway example.

The phrase can also refer to an object comparison, like with picturesque.

Here are some examples to help you understand how “esque” can show comparisons.

  • The older man seemed wise and even possessed a Gandalf-esque beard. 

This adjective form relates to the character of Gandalf from the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, who is known for his long beard. 

  • Her accent was unusual, possessing a German-esque quality yet including qualities of some other language he couldn’t define. 

Here we have a reference to a specific language.

  • The statuesque man stood with his sword in hand, regal like a king. 

The usage here invokes the image of a statue, and the added description included in the form of a simile helps the reader’s mind form a vivid picture. 

Alternatives to “Esque”

Sometimes you may find that a particular comparison using “esque” feels clumsy, or perhaps you want another way to do the job to avoid repetition. These are some other options that can help.

-Ish

“Ish” means that the described noun has qualities similar to those expressed using the suffix. 

  • The woman was very bookish. 

This simple sentence conveys the idea that the woman was an intellectual and spent a lot of her time immersed in volumes of text. 

-Like

A more direct comparison, “like,” shows how one noun resembles another. 

  • When giving a speech, the director’s hands moved in a very Trump-like fashion.

In this scenario, the allusion is to Donald Trump, and the expression indicates that he has a particular way of using his hands for emphasis when speaking. 


 

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