Etymology
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Words related to difference

dis- 
Origin and meaning of dis-

word-forming element of Latin origin meaning 1. "lack of, not" (as in dishonest); 2. "opposite of, do the opposite of" (as in disallow); 3. "apart, away" (as in discard), from Old French des- or directly from Latin dis- "apart, asunder, in a different direction, between," figuratively "not, un-," also "exceedingly, utterly." Assimilated as dif- before -f- and to di- before most voiced consonants.

The Latin prefix is from PIE *dis- "apart, asunder" (source also of Old English te-, Old Saxon ti-, Old High German ze-, German zer-). The PIE root is a secondary form of *dwis- and thus is related to Latin bis "twice" (originally *dvis) and to duo, on notion of "two ways, in twain" (hence "apart, asunder").

In classical Latin, dis- paralleled de- and had much the same meaning, but in Late Latin dis- came to be the favored form and this passed into Old French as des-, the form used for compound words formed in Old French, where it increasingly had a privative sense ("not"). In English, many of these words eventually were altered back to dis-, while in French many have been altered back to de-. The usual confusion prevails.

As a living prefix in English, it reverses or negatives what it is affixed to. Sometimes, as in Italian, it is reduced to s- (as in spend, splay, sport, sdain for disdain, and the surnames Spencer and Spence).

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*bher- (1)

Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to carry," also "to bear children."

It forms all or part of: Aberdeen; amphora; anaphora; aquifer; auriferous; bairn; barrow (n.1) "frame for carrying a load;" bear (v.); bearing; Berenice; bier; birth; bring; burden (n.1) "a load;" carboniferous; Christopher; chromatophore; circumference; confer; conference; conifer; cumber; cumbersome; defer (v.2) "yield;" differ; difference; differentiate; efferent; esophagus; euphoria; ferret; fertile; Foraminifera; forbear (v.); fossiliferous; furtive; indifferent; infer; Inverness; Lucifer; metaphor; odoriferous; offer; opprobrium; overbear; paraphernalia; periphery; pestiferous; pheromone; phoresy; phosphorus; Porifera; prefer; proffer; proliferation; pyrophoric; refer; reference; semaphore; somniferous; splendiferous; suffer; transfer; vociferate; vociferous.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit bharati "he carries, brings," bhrtih "a bringing, maintenance;" Avestan baraiti "carries;" Old Persian barantiy "they carry;" Armenian berem "I carry;" Greek pherein "to carry," pherne "dowry;" Latin ferre "to bear, carry," fors (genitive fortis) "chance, luck," perhaps fur "a thief;" Old Irish beru/berim "I catch, I bring forth," beirid "to carry;" Old Welsh beryt "to flow;" Gothic bairan "to carry;" Old English and Old High German beran, Old Norse bera "barrow;" Old Church Slavonic birati "to take;" Russian brat' "to take," bremya "a burden," beremennaya "pregnant."

diff (n.)

colloquial shortening of difference, attested by 1878 in phrase what's the diff? "what's the difference?"

differential (adj.)
Origin and meaning of differential

1640s, "making or exhibiting a difference," from Medieval Latin differentialis, from Latin differentia "diversity, difference" (see difference). Related: Differentially. As a noun in mathematics, "an infinitesimal difference between two values of variable quantity," from 1704. Differential calculus is attested from 1702.

differentiate (v.)
Origin and meaning of differentiate

1816, transitive, "make different; be what distinguishes between," from Medieval Latin differentiatus, past participle of differentiare, from Latin differentia "diversity, difference" (see difference).

Originally a mathematical term, "obtain the differential coefficient of;" intransitive sense of "acquire a distinct and separate character" is by 1874. Non-technical transitive sense of "discriminate between by observing or describing the difference between" is from 1876; earlier, difference had been used as a verb in this sense. Related: Differentiated; differentiating.