15 “Dis-” Words and Their Relations

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Words with the antonymic prefix dis- are easily confused with similar-looking terms starting with mis- or un- that usually have differing connotations or entirely distinct senses. Here are comparative definitions of some of these terms, along with etymological identification:

1-2. Disassemble/Dissemble/Misassemble
The first two words have a shared etymology but distinct meanings. To disassemble originally meant “to disperse” and now means “to take apart,” but to dissemble is to conceal or simulate. The Latin root they share is simulare, which means “to make like or to compare.” (Resemble, semblance, and the like also stem from this word, and similar is closely related.) Dissimulation is dissemble’s more directly descended synonym. To misassemble, meanwhile, is to assemble incorrectly.

3-4. Disassociate/Dissociate
These interchangeable words mean “to separate,” either literally, as in withdrawing from a social group, or figuratively, as in diverging from past behavior. (The common root stems from the Latin term sociare, which means “to join,” from which English derives social, society, and similar words.)

5. Discharge/Mischarge
Discharge means “to release,” “to unload,” or “to perform one’s duties.” Mischarge is a rare word meaning “to make a mistake in charging,” as in loading a weapon. (The root word, charge, is from the Latin term carricare, meaning “to load.”)

6. Disconnect/Misconnect
To disconnect is to uncouple or unhook. To misconnect is to put together erroneously. (The shared root, connect, is from the Latin word connectere, “to join together.” That word’s root, in turn, is related to nexus, meaning “a link or bond.”)

7. Discount/Miscount
A discount is a markdown on a price. A miscount is a tabulation made in error. (The source of the root count is the Latin word computare, from which, of course, compute and computer are derived.)

8. Disinformation/Misinformation
Disinformation is a form or propaganda intended to cover up inconvenient facts and/or sway public opinion. Misinformation is a more neutral term referring merely to incorrect data. (The Latin root they share is formare, which means “to form or shape.”)

9. Disinterest/Uninterest
These seemingly indistinguishable words sharing the root word interest (from the Latin term interesse, meaning “to be between” or “to make a difference”) have a key difference of connotation: To be disinterested is to have no stake in something, to be impartial, and uninterested denotes the more basis sense of a lack of concern or investment in something.

10. Dislocate/Mislocate
To dislocate is to put out of place; to mislocate is to misplace, or lose. (Locate is from the Latin word locare, “to place,” and is related to locus, which refers to a site or center.)

11. Disorder/Misorder
Disorder is a lack of organization or an instance of random placement, or a state of social upheaval; it is rarely used as a verb, perhaps because disorder is generally not a consciously achieved state. Misorder is an uncommon verb meaning “to erroneously order,” as in preparing an order, or a list of items such as tasks to accomplish or products to purchase. Disorder also applies to a mental or physical condition that is not normal. (The root word order is descended from the Latin term ordinem, meaning “arrangement.”)

12. Disorganized/Unorganized
These antonyms of organized (from the Latin word organum, meaning “instrument” or “organ”) are nearly synonymous, but a distinction is sometimes made between the former referring impersonally to places and things and the latter being a personal characteristic.

13. Disqualified/Unqualified
To become disqualified is to be deprived or made ineligible; to be unqualified is to already lack the required prerequisites for qualification. (The common root is from the Latin term qualis, meaning “of what kind,” which is also the source of quality.)

14. Dissatisfied/Unsatisfied
These terms have different shades of meaning: To be dissatisfied is to be disappointed in the quality of something, such as a product, or work done; unsatisfied refers to a quantitative displeasure, such as when an appetite or demand is not fulfilled. (Satisfy, the root of both words, comes from the Latin term satisfacere, a compound of satis, meaning “enough” — also the source of sate, meaning “to appease an indulgence” — and facere, meaning “to do or make,” whence fact.)

15. Distrust/Mistrust
Both words mean “the absence or lack of trust,” with no real distinction between them. The root, of course, is trust, borrowed from Scandinavian and related through the Germanic-language family tree to true and truth.

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3 thoughts on “15 “Dis-” Words and Their Relations”

  1. Another good one is discreet/discrete. For some reason I see “discrete” being used all the time when people actually mean “discreet.”

    “Discreet” is careful behavior or speech. The noun “discretion” comes from this word, which may cause the confusion with “discrete.”

    “Discrete” means separate from something else.

    I love these articles and look forward to reading them each day. Thanks for posting them!


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