Con / Dif

So “con” and “dif” make all the difference. Now there are two tricky things about Latin prefixes. One is that they can vary a bit in form according to the root word they precede. So “con” can sometimes appear as “com” or just “co.” The prefix “dif” can appear as “dis,” “des,” “di” and even “der.” The second funny thing about prefixes is that they often wander far from their original meaning. “Con” and its other forms derive from the Latin preposition “cum,” meaning “with,” and all its incarnations follow the general sense of “jointly, together” (as in “copilot” or “commingle”). “Dif” as a prefix, however, has a more complex history. Its original form was “dis,” representing a Greek root with the general sense of “in two ways” or “separated.” This led to “dis” and its relatives being used to mean “divide or set apart” (as in “discern” and “disseminate”), “remove, reverse or negate” (“displease” “disassemble”), and simply as an intensive. “Dis” in the form “dif” also gave us the word “different,” via the Latin “differre,” to set apart, from “dif” (apart) plus “ferre,” to carry.

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