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.
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
example word: misknow
1. do the opposite of
example words: disestablish, disarticulate
example words: disconnect, disfranchise
exclude or expel from
example word: disbar
2. opposite or absence of
example words: disaffection, dishearten
example words: disagreeable, dishonest
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.
List of dis- words
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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