Entries linking to disbelieve
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).
Middle English bileven, from Old English belyfan "to have faith or confidence" (in a person), earlier geleafa (Mercian), gelefa (Northumbrian), gelyfan (West Saxon), from Proto-Germanic *ga-laubjan "to believe," perhaps literally "hold dear (or valuable, or satisfactory), to love" (source also of Old Saxon gilobian "believe," Dutch geloven, Old High German gilouben, German glauben), ultimately a compound based on PIE root *leubh- "to care, desire, love" (see belief).
The meaning "be persuaded of the truth of" (a doctrine, system, religion, etc.) is from mid-13c.; the meaning "credit upon the grounds of authority or testimony without complete demonstration, accept as true" is from early 14c. The general sense of "be of the opinion, think" is from c. 1300. Related: Believed (formerly occasionally beleft); believing.
The form beleeve was common till 17c., the spelling then changed, perhaps by influence of relieve, etc. To believe on instead of in was more common in 16c. but now is a peculiarity of theology; believe of also sometimes was used in 17c. The expression believe it or not is attested by 1874; Robert Ripley's newspaper cartoon of the same name is from 1918. Emphatic you better believe attested from 1854.
updated on August 23, 2018