From Old English -weard (compare -wards, from -weardes); akin to Old Saxon and Old Frisian -ward. Old High German -wert, German -wärts, Icelandic -verðr, Gothic -vaírþs, Latin vertere to turn, versus toward, and English worth to become. Compare verse.
- Forming adverbs denoting course or direction to, or motion or tendency toward, as in "backward", "toward", "forward", etc.
- Forming adjectives, as in "a backward look", "the northward road", etc; used even by speakers who usually use -wards for adverbs.
- The choice between -ward and -wards is individual or dialectal; both are widely used.
- Adverbs ending in -wards (Anglo-Saxon -weardes) and some other adverbs, such as besides, betimes, since Old English sithens, etc., originated as genitive forms used adverbially.
- The adjectives toward (initial stress) and forward have meanings not predictable from the meaning of -ward.
- Awkward has retained the form but lost much of the sense in its use of this suffix.