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-.
1660s, from French toxique and directly from Late Latin toxicus "poisoned," from Latin toxicum "poison," from Greek toxikon (pharmakon) "(poison) for use on arrows," from toxikon, neuter of toxikos "pertaining to arrows or archery," and thus to a bow, from toxon "bow," probably from a Scythian word that also was borrowed into Latin as taxus "yew." Watkins suggests a possible source in Iranian taxša- "bow," from PIE *tekw- "to run, flee." As a noun from 1890. Toxic waste is by 1888 in medicine, "toxin;" by 1955 as "chemical or radioactive waste."