Items of a specified type or for a given purpose; classes of computer applications.
[Old English waru, commodities.]
This ending generates group nouns describing items of a particular type, such as chinaware, earthenware, glassware, hardware (traditionally, items made of iron), silverware, and stoneware. The suffix is also applied collectively to items intended for a specific purpose, such as tableware, kitchenware, giftware, ovenware, and sanitaryware.
Computer specialists in the 1950s made a distinction between hardware, the equipment, and software, the sets of numerical instructions that tell the systems what to do. On their model, many terms for types of software have since been created, such as firmware, which is permanently programmed into a read-only memory; middleware, which sits between applications from different sources to ensure they work together; groupware, which assists a group of people to work collectively; shareware, which may be freely copied and shared for evaluation purposes, but for which a fee is required if it continues to be used; and freeware, free software.
The suffix is extremely active in computer contexts, often giving rise to humorous formations: vapourware (US vaporware; also brochureware), software that is advertised, often as a spoiler to competitors, but which does not (yet) exist; bloatware, software with excessive or unnecessary functions that takes up valuable storage space and memory; wetware, human brains; liveware, human beings; shelfware, computer applications purchased but never used.