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Journal Chacham's Journal: Puzzle: predicating "un" without it being an antonym 18

Normally, when adding the letters "un" to the beginning of a word, it is a prefix that makes the word mean its opposite. For example, "clean" and "unclean", "lock" and "unlock", and "friendly" and "unfriendly".

Then I noticed the words "canny" and "uncanny". Not only is uncanny not its opposite, but it means even more so! So, I've been asking people for words that when the letters "un" are attached to its beginning, that the word does not mean its opposite. An early candidate mentioned by my brother was "icicle" and "unicycle". That sounded great, until we realized the spelling difference. A friend mentioned "it" and "unit", which I particularly liked. I wanted to add "animus" and "unanimous", but my lexicon shattered those dreams.

So far the list is:


Any others?

Added: less/unless (Twirlip)
Added: to/unto (Friend)
Added: ionize/unionize (Dannon)

This discussion was created by Chacham (981) for no Foes, but now has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Puzzle: predicating "un" without it being an antonym

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  • I'm reminded of the relationship between 'regardless'and 'irregardless' (the first being a word, the second not). It is funny because the second turns out to be a double negative (the ir prefix and the less suffix).

    Interesting interesting.
  • Sorry, but I have to quote Ralph Wiggim:

    Me fail english? That's unpossible!
  • flammable

    Since in- is often used in the same way as un- which is to say as a negation. Of course, inflammable is not properaly the opposite of flammable :p
  • How about "less" and "unless?"
  • I don't know if this matters to you, but Webster's defines "uncanny" as "Not canny; unsafe; strange; weird; ghostly." I think the first two definitions are much less common than the last three today, though.
  • iCorn = new snack chips from Apple Computers &
    unicorn = mythical beast
  • I've heard the term "Disgruntled employee" but I've never heard "gruntled employee"... Is gruntled an actual word? :)

  • The prefix Uni- just indicates a single as opposed to two, three, many, none, or such.

    Un- is a negation -- similar to de-, dis- or in- (which becomes im- when followed by a 'p' or 'm' sound).

    So any 'un-i-this' or 'un-i-that' is unlikely to have the same meaning as 'this' or 'that' because you'd be looking at different base words. Similarly, 'unit' is not a negation of 'it' -- they're from different root words and from different source languages -- built it's cool that they can be read as a base and its negation. I can't think of any others that match, but now I'll be thinking about it.

    In the meantime, I could go on a whole branch of prefix/suffix modifications of base words and sound-alikes (propose/depose/impose, etc.), but that'd get far off topic. To stray only a little: I'd like to add that my favorite stupidly negated word is indefatigable.

    1) fatigue - (v) exhaust (tire) (n) exhaustion (a state of being tired).
    2) fatigable - (adj) being susceptible to exhaustion.
    3) infatigable - (adj) being unsusceptible to exhaustion. -- archaic
    4) indefatigable - (adj) being unsusceptible to exhaustion.

    Why'd we drop the shorter, more logical form for the longer double negative of the same meaning???
  • until

    (the original spelling was untill; or, if you prefer, the OED cites 'til as a 20th century contraction.)

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford