active word-forming element in English and in many verbs inherited from French and Latin, from Latin de "down, down from, from, off; concerning" (see de), also used as a prefix in Latin, usually meaning "down, off, away, from among, down from," but also "down to the bottom, totally" hence "completely" (intensive or completive), which is its sense in many English words.
As a Latin prefix it also had the function of undoing or reversing a verb's action, and hence it came to be used as a pure privative — "not, do the opposite of, undo" — which is its primary function as a living prefix in English, as in defrost (1895), defuse (1943), de-escalate (1964), etc. In some cases, a reduced form of dis-.
1730, hypothetical inflammatory principle, formerly believed to exist in all combustible matter, from Modern Latin (1702), from Greek phlogiston (1610s in this sense), neuter of phlogistos "burnt up, inflammable," from phlogizein "to set on fire, burn," from phlox (genitive phlogos) "flame, blaze" (from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn"). The theory was propounded by Stahl (1702), denied by Lavoisier (1775), defended by Priestley, but generally abandoned by 1800. Related: Phlogistic; phlogisticated.
verbal suffix for Latin verbs in -are, identical with -ate (1). Old English commonly made verbs from adjectives by adding a verbal ending to the word (such as gnornian "be sad, mourn," gnorn "sad, depressed"), but as the inflections wore off English words in late Old and early Middle English, there came to be no difference between the adjective and the verb in dry, empty, warm, etc. Thus accustomed to the identity of adjectival and verbal forms of a word, the English, when they began to expand their Latin-based vocabulary after c. 1500, simply made verbs from Latin past-participial adjectives without changing their form (such as aggravate, substantiate) and it became the custom that Latin verbs were Englished from their past participle stems.