As readers, we recognize prefixes, like dis-, in-, non- and un-, as expressing negation. We immediately know that “unfair” means “not fair.” However, there are some clear exceptions to these rules. Such anomalies can cause confusion for a few reasons. For one, the prefix in- also literally means in, such as
. The word impromptu for instance comes directly from the Latin phrase
that means “in readiness.”
One particularly tangled example of negative prefixes is the pair ravel and
. The word ravel comes from the Dutch word
meaning to tangle or unweave. The word simultaneously means to disentangle and to entangle because in sewing as you unwind a thread, it becomes tangled.
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