Save This Word!

a combination of -man and -ship, used as an independent suffix with the meaning “skill in a particular activity, especially of a competitive nature”: brinkmanship; seamanship; one-upmanship; sometimes compounded with a plural noun by analogy with craftsmanship, marksmanship, sportsmanship, etc.
Do you have the grammar chops to know when to use “have” or “has”? Let’s find out with this quiz!
Question 1 of 7
My grandmother ________ a wall full of antique cuckoo clocks.
Meet Grammar CoachWrite or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar helpImprove Your Writing
Meet Grammar CoachImprove Your Writing
Write or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar help
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does -manship mean?

The combining form -manship is used like a suffix meaning “skill,” particularly in reference to activities that require a particular skill.

The form -manship comes from a combination of the forms -man and -ship. The form -man comes from Old English mann, which could refer to both an adult male and a human being in general. The form -ship is a suffix denoting a condition or character, from Old English -scipe.

In this way, -manship typically indicates the skill of a person in a particular activity.

Examples of -manship

Two common examples of words that use -manship are craftsmanship and penmanship. Despite the use of -man, such terms are not usually interpreted as gender-specific. However, the same may not be the case for the base word in such terms (the one that refers to a person). For example, swordsmanship is usually used without regard to the gender of the person who possesses the skill, but the word swordsman—though it can be used in a gender-neutral way—traditionally implies a man due to its ending. The same applies to the word craftsman. For this reason, some people may avoid using terms with -manship due to its potential implications.

Still, there are cases in which a word has taken on a meaning that goes beyond indicating a skill related to its base word. The word sportsmanship, for example, now most commonly refers not to skill as a sportsman, but to fair conduct and good-natured treatment of other competitors.

For more guidance, check out the Thesaurus.com guide to gender-neutral language.

What are some words that use the combining form -manship?

Break it down!

Given the meaning of -manship, what is seamanship? (Hint: you would expect a sailor to have it.)

How to use -manship in a sentence