- -ize suffix forming verbs, M.E. -isen, from O.Fr. -iser, from L.L. -izare, from Gk. -izein. English picked up the French form, but partially reverted to the correct Greek -z- spelling from late 16c. In Britain, despite the opposition (at least formerly) of OED, Encyclopaedia Britannica, the "Times of London," and Fowler, -ise remains dominant. Fowler thinks this is to avoid the difficulty of remembering the short list of common words not from Greek which must be spelled with an -s- (e.g. ADVERTISE (Cf. advertise), DEVISE (Cf. devise), SURPRISE (Cf. surprise)).
Etymology dictionary. 2014.