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Also dif‑.

Expressing a variety of negative senses.

Latin dis‑, sometimes via Old French des‑.

The prefix had various linked senses in Latin, such as reversal, moving apart, removal or separation; sometimes it could express simple negation. For example, in dissuade it indicates reversal, as the stem verb suadere means to advise or persuade; in dissipate, from supare, to throw, it has the sense of ‘apart’, so literally ‘to scatter’; in discharge, from Latin discarricare, to unload, it signals the opposite of carricare, to load.

As a prefix in English, it can have any of these senses. It indicates reversal in disaffirm, disconnect, disappear, disembark, disestablish, disown, dispossess, disqualify; removal in disbud, disburden, disembowel; negation in disability, dishonour, dislike, dissimilar.

The prefix is active, for instance in recent decades forming disambiguate, to remove the ambiguity from some situation; disintermediation, eliminating intermediaries from a chain of suppliers or traders; disinformation, false information which is intended to mislead.

In a few examples in Latin, dis‑ could intensify the action of the stem. In English, a few examples exist, but they are unusual: disannul, to make null and void; dissever, to divide or sever something.

Before stems beginning with f, the prefix became dif‑ in Latin, examples of which in English include differ, difficulty, diffident, diffract, and diffuse.

Though dismal looks like a member of this set, it actually derives from medieval Latin dies mali, evil days.

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