Saturday, June 17, 2006


Ok, what does the prefix "Inde" mean?
Is it actually two prefixes, "In" and "de," smashed together?
If it is, it looks redundant, since both mean roughly "non."
[Although later I guess I point out two separate, but related, forms of "non."]

Inde-fatigable describes something that cannot be fatigued.
Inde-finite describes something that has no finite boundary.

Here's the kicker though:
Inde-structable describes something that is not destructable.
My original guess was that indestructable has a different prefix than indefatigable; in-destructable vs. inde-fatigable.
But then I looked at the base word "destruct."
The antonym of "destruct" is "construct." Two words so similar suggest that, although this doesn't appear to be true now, "struct" used to be a word by itself. de-struct is to tear down a structure, and con-struct is to build a structure. So possibly struct is the root, and "de" and "con" are different prefixes used with the word "struct." And then by adding another prefix, "in," we are saying something is in-de-structable, or in-con-structable.

So what's the deal?


Chaka said...

Your reasoning is excellent, my pirate friend. Without referencing OED, I would guess that "de" was a productive prefix in Latin and has become semi-productive in English based on analogy with words like "destruct" borrowed from Latin. ("struct" was never a word in English, but several Latin words that contain it have been loaned into English.)

Now, the question in my mind is, what does "de" really mean? Does it mean something like "non" or "un"? It seems to in "destruct" "destress" "de-ice" etc. My guess is that new coinages use this meaning exclusively. But "definite" doesn't mean "without an end"--just the opposite.


Bonnie suggests

Ok, that's enough data for now. I'll let you know what I think.

Pirate Jimmy said...

HOLY FREAKIN' COW! It's 10:43 right now, I happen to go to this page the same minute you posted that comment!

Pirate Jimmy said...

Ok, my clock is off by 4 minutes. But still, talk about coincidence.

Chaka said...

I think the best meaning that covers the data is "down". Checking out OED to confirm...

It looks like the uses mainly stem from some sense of "down," either spatially (depend, decline) or metaphorically. Here's the real kicker: it can be used both as a negative (deceive, delude) or as an intensifier ("down to the bottom" "completely" as in declare).

Same prefix, opposite meanings. Which explains definite and destruct.

Chaka said...

So when they say it takes awhile for your post to show up, they ain't kidding. Brandon's posts hadn't shown up yet when I posted my second comment.

Pirate Jimmy said...

Blogger was distracted by the Sharapova post, so productivity was down for a little bit.