Dis- and mis- prefixes

Lesson: learning more about the prefixes mis- and dis-

mis-: 1. badly, wrongly; unfavorably; in a suspicious manner 2. bad, wrong 3. opposite or lack of 4. not

dis-: 1. do the opposite of; deprive of (a specified quality, rank, or object); exclude or expel from 2. opposite or absence of 3. not 4. completely

Hold on a second. So, both mis- and dis- can mean not and opposite? Yes. Once again, thank you, English, for being so confusing. This means that sometimes words starting with the prefix mis- and dis– mean essentially the same thing—mistrust and distrust, for example, both mean not having trust/lack of trust. But other times, the word must take one or the other. Misbehavior is not interchangeable with disbehavior, for instance; disbehavior is not a correct word.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find any rules or tips for figuring out whether a word takes mis- or dis-. (If any readers know of any tricks that could help, please pass the word along.) My plan of attack for this lesson is to provide an example for each meaning of mis- and dis- and then include a list of mis- and dis- words, so you can at least use this page as a reference to determine the correct prefix.

mis- meanings
1. badly, wrongly
example words: misjudge, misbutton

example word: misesteem

in a suspicious manner
example words: misdoubt, misassumption

2. bad, wrong
example words: misdeed, misbehavior

3. opposite or lack of
example words: mismanagement, mistrust

4. not
example word: misknow

1. do the opposite of
example words: disestablish, disarticulate

deprive of
example words: disconnect, disfranchise

exclude or expel from
example word: disbar

2. opposite or absence of
example words: disaffection, dishearten

3. not
example words: disagreeable, dishonest

4. completely
example word: disannul

List of mis- words
These are by no means comprehensive lists. I was aiming to capture the popular mis-/dis-words. If you don’t see your word on the list, consult a dictionary.

misaddress mislearn
misadvise mislocate
misalign mismanage
misapply mismanagement
misassemble mismark
misattribute mismatch
misbehave mismate
miscalculate misorder
miscatalog mispackage
mischaracterize misperceive
misconceive misperception
misconnect misprint
misconstrue misquote
misdate misrecord
misdial misremember
misevaluate misreport
misfile misshapen
misfire missort
misgovern mistime
misgrade mistitle
misidentify mistranslate
misinform mistune
misinformation mistype
mislabel misuse

List of dis- words

disability disimprisonment dissect
disadvantage disimprove disserve
disaffected disinclined disservice
disagreeable disinfect dissimilar
disallow disingenuous dissimilate
disappoint disinterest dissociation
disapprove disjoint dissuade
disband dislike distasteful
disbelieve dislocate disunify
discloak dislodge disuse
disclose disloyal
discolor dismantle
discomfort dismay
disconnect dismember
discontinue dismiss
discourage dismount
discourteous disobey
discourtesy disorder
discredit disown
disembark dispassion
disembowel dispirit
disenchanted displacement
disenfranchise displease
disenjoyment disprivileged
disfavor disproportion
disfigure disquiet
disgrace disregard
disharmonious disrobe
dishonor disrupt
disillusion dissatisfy

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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11 thoughts on “Dis- and mis- prefixes

  1. You are very excellent about the prefixes mis- and dis. I have read a lot of prefixes on web-sides but you are the best. if you could , please add Example on each meaning such as mis =
    1. badly, wrongly; unfavorably; in a suspicious manner
    2. bad, wrong
    3. opposite or lack of
    4. not.
    It will be very useful for people who use English as a second language.


  2. Mis- has a connotation that their was a good or correct outcome that was not achieved.
    Misbehave suggests that there was a correct way to behave. Misplaced suggests there was a correct place for the item but the item was not put there. etc.
    Dis- seems more neutral in that there might not be a correct or good alternative. The water was displaced by the volume of the rocks. A theory that is wrong might be discredited, which is arguably a good thing to anyone seeking the truth. etc.


  3. Dressed in a Gym Red and White color scheme. This Air Jordan 1 features a leather and synthetic upper with heathered laces, a contrasting Wings logo and a woven Jumpman tongue label at the tongue. A hidden Air sole unit atop a rubber outsole completes the design.


  4. Would it ever be correct to use a hyphen with any of these words to indicate extra emphasis of the negative? For example, “mis-diagnosed, mis-medicated, mis-managed”?

    Thank you for your time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In general, we are moving away from using hyphens with prefixes. I’ve not seen the hyphen used for emphasis. Italics are the standard way to show emphasis. Typically the whole word would be italicized, but I could see you only setting the prefix in italics to put emphasis on just that part.


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