un-


un-
{{11}}un- (1) prefix of negation, O.E. un-, from P.Gmc. *un- (Cf. O.Fris., O.H.G., Ger. un-, Goth. un-, Du. on-), from PIE *n- (Cf. Skt. a-, an- "not," Gk. a-, an-, O.Ir. an-, L. in-), a variant of PIE root *ne- "not" (Cf. Avestan na, O.C.S., Lith. ne "not," L. ne "that not," Gk. ne- "not," O.Ir. ni, Corn. ny "not").
Freely and widely used since Old English in compounds with native and imported words, it disputes with Latin-derived cognate IN- (Cf. in-) the right to form the negation of certain words (indigestable/undigestable, etc.). Often euphemistic (e.g. untruth for "lie"). The most prolific of English prefixes, it even is used to make words from phrases (e.g. uncalled-for, c.1600; undreamed-of, 1630s; uncome-at-able, 1690s; unputdownable, 1947, of a book; un-in-one-breath-utterable, Ben Jonson; etc.). As a prefix in telegram-ese to replace NOT (Cf. not) and save the cost of a word, it is first attested 1936.
{{12}}un- (2) prefix of reversal (e.g. unhand, undo, unbutton), O.E. on-, un-, from P.Gmc. *andi- (Cf. O.S. ant-, O.N. and-, Du. ont-, O.H.G. ant-, Ger. ant-, Goth. and- "against"), from PIE *anti "facing opposite, near, in front of, before" (see ANTE (Cf. ante)).

Etymology dictionary. 2014.


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