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Words Ending in -mA – Sattuma, Syntymä, Unelma

Words ending in -mA (either -ma or -mä according to vowel harmony rules) can have many different historic sources. Some of them are very clearly derived from a verb (e.g. elää → elämä), while others can be traced back to a time when Finnish was still developing into a language of its own.

Table of Contents
  1. Words ending in -mA organized by verbtype origin
    1. Verbtype 1 verbs
    2. Verbtype 2 verbs
    3. Verbtype 3 verbs
  2. Words Ending in -mA that require a historical background
    1. The history of the Finnish language
    2. Proto-Finnic or Finno-Ugric origin words
    3. More recent loanwords ending in -mA

1. Words Ending in -mA Organized by Verbtype Origin

1.1. Words Ending in -mA from Verbtype 1 Verbs

Our first group of nouns is the largest: words that have been derived from a verbtype 1 verb. Generally, these words are created by taking the strong stem of the verb (e.g. liitty-; näky-; taantu-) and adding -mA to the end of them (e.g. liittymä; näkymä; taantuma).

Noun Translation Origin
elämä life elää
heijastuma reflection heijastua
hyytymä clot hyytyä
ilmentymä embodiment ilmentyä
ilosanoma tincture sanoa
kasautuma accumulation kasautua
kaventuma constriction kaventua
kovettuma callus kovettua
kuluma worn out part kulua
laajentuma expansion, enlargement laajentua
lausuma enunciation lausua
liittymä subscription, interface liittyä
lyhennelmä abridgment, digest version lyhentää
murtuma fracture, breakage murtua
näkymä view, prospect näkyä
oireyhtymä syndrome yhtyä
paleltuma frostbite paleltua
rakennelma construct, construction rakentaa
sattuma coincidence sattua
sekaantuma contamination sekaantua
siirtymä transitional, displacement siirtyä
sortuma cave-in sortua
syntymä birth syntyä
taantuma recession, downturn taantua
tapahtuma happening, event tapahtua
tunnelma ambience, atmosphere tuntea
tutkielma study, dissertation tutkia
väittämä proposition väittää

1.2. Words Ending in -mA from Verbtype 2 Verbs

Noun Translation Origin
juoma drink juoda
jäämä left-over, remnant, residue jäädä
voima power voida

1.3. Words Ending in -mA from Verbtype 3 Verbs

This group is fairly large. These nouns have in common that they end in -lmA. The -l- originates from the basic form of the verb, which ends in -llA.

Noun Translation Origin
asetelma still life (painting) asetella
askelma step (of stairs) askella
hahmotelma outline, draft, plan hahmotella
järjestelmä system järjestellä
kuolema death kuolla
kuvitelma fantasy / notion kuvitella
lajitelma assortment lajitella
menetelmä method menetellä
muistelma memoir muistella
muunnelma variant, variation muunnella
muodostelma formation muodostella
näytelmä play näytellä
suudelma kiss suudella
suunnitelma plan suunnitella
vaikutelma impression, appearance vaikutella
viljelmä plantation viljellä
yhdistelmä combination yhdistellä
mukaelma adaptation, retelling mukaella
purema bite purra
päätelmä conclusion, deduction päätellä
tiivistelmä summary, synopsis tiivistellä

2. Words Ending in -mA that Require a Historical Background

2.1. The History of the Finnish Language

Natural languages are never just born the way they are right now. They’ve developed over time, and linguists can trace languages back to a time when they were still one with other closely related languages. That’s how we know some things about Germanic and  Baltic languages.

Finnish is closely related to a whole bunch of languages spoken in the Baltic area or parts of Russia. These languages are referred to as Finnic languages. They have a common ancestor; a time when they were one and the same language before they started to drift off in different directions. This language is called the Proto-Finnic language (myöhäiskantasuomi). Below, I am linking to the Wikipedia articles concerning the Finnic languages I will refer to in this article.

When we go further back still in the history of the Finnic languages, we can find more languages which are less closely related to nowaday Finnish. These languages belong to the Finno-Ugric language family (suomalais-ugrilaiset kielet); which existed in a time before the Proto-Finnic and the Ugric languages started to drift off in different directions. Finno-Ugric languages referred to in this article are:

2.2. Proto-Finnic or Finno-Ugric Origin Words Ending in -mA

In the following list, I have occasionally omitted some languages in the origin list. The point of this list is not to be complete, but rather to give you a general idea of how old a word is and how wide-spread. You can find the broader language group these languages belong to between brackets.

Noun Translation Origin
emä mother, parent Proto-Uralic word
hedelmä fruit similar words in Votian, Livonian and Estonian (Proto-Finnish)
helma hem similar words in Votian, Livonian, Estonian and Karelian (Germanic loan)
kerma cream probably from the ancient Finnish word “keri” (“surface layer”)
kiima rut, heat similar words in Karelian, Vepsian and Estonian (Proto-Finnic)
kuorma load, burden similar words in Karelian, Vepsian, Estonian and Votian (Proto-Finnic)
kuuma hot similar words in Karelian, Votian, Estonian and Livonian (Proto-Finnic)
kylmä cold similar words in Karelian, Livonian (Proto-Finnic) and Mordvinian, Mari (Finno-Ugric)
lehmä cow similar words in all Proto-Finnic languages, as well as in Mordvinian
oma own similar words in Proto-Finnic languages, prob related to third person form of olla
ongelma problem really unclear, no similar words in Proto-Finnic
piimä buttermilk really unclear, similar words in Votian and Estonian don’t mean the same thing
ryhmä group really unclear, possibly a Germanic or Baltic loan
satama harbor, port derivated from the verb “sataa“, which used to mean “to land, to touch down
silmä eye similar words in Uralic languages (Vepsian, Sámi, Mansi, Hanti, Udmurt, Hungarian)
surma death similar words in Karelian, Votian (Proto-Finnic) and Mansi, Hanti (Finno-Ugric)
viima wind unclear, possible onomatopoetic “vii” + –ma
tyhmä stupid similar words in Karelian, Estonian and Ludian; unsure; thought to be a Germanic loan
tuhma naughty similar words in Vepsian, Votian, Ludian, Estonian and Sámi (Proto-Finnic)

2.2. More Recent Loanwords Ending in -mA

Noun Translation Origin
glaukooma glaucoma glaucoma
lymfooma lymphoma lymphoma
melanooma melanoma melanoma
syndrooma syndrome syndrome
kooma coma coma
skeema schema schema
teema theme theme
liima glue Swedish: lim
loma vacation could be an old Baltic loan
ruuma hold for cargo Germanic loan, probably Swedish
ohjelma program Germanic loan
tapaturma accident Germanic loan


Note: In addition to what’s above, there are some words ending in -mA that seem to be derived from a noun. I have been unable to find more information about these nouns, so I will just list them here:

  • ihottuma < iho?
  • seinämä < seinä?
  • kudelma < kude, kuteet?
  • unelma < uni?
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