Entries linking to unproved
prefix of negation, Old English un-, from Proto-Germanic *un- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German, German un-, Gothic un-, Dutch on-), from PIE *n- (source of Sanskrit a-, an- "not," Greek a-, an-, Old Irish an-, Latin in-), combining form of PIE root *ne- "not." Often euphemistic (such as untruth for "lie").
The most prolific of English prefixes, freely and widely used in Old English, where it forms more than 1,000 compounds. It underwent a mass extinction in early Middle English, but emerged with renewed vigor 16c. to form compounds with native and imported words. It disputes with Latin-derived cognate in- (1) the right to form the negation of certain words (indigestable/undigestable, etc.), and though both might be deployed in cooperation to indicate shades of meaning (unfamous/infamous), typically they are not.
It also makes words from phrases (such as uncalled-for, c. 1600; undreamed-of, 1630s; uncome-at-able, 1690s; unputdownable, 1947, of a book; un-in-one-breath-utterable, Ben Jonson; etc., but the habit is not restricted to un-; such as put-up-able-with, 1812). As a prefix in telegramese to replace not and save the cost of a word, it is attested by 1936.
c. 1200, prēven, pruven, proven "to try by experience or by a test or standard; evaluate; demonstrate in practice," from Old French prover, pruver "show; convince; put to the test" (11c., Modern French prouver), from Latin probare "to make good; esteem, represent as good; make credible, show, demonstrate; test, inspect; judge by trial" (source also of Spanish probar, Italian probare, and English probe), from probus "worthy, good, upright, virtuous."
This is from PIE *pro-bhwo- "being in front," from *pro-, extended form of root *per- (1) "forward," hence "in front of," + root *bhu- "to be," source also of Latin fui "I have been," futurus "about to be;" Old English beon "to be;" see be.
From early 13c. as "render certain, put out of doubt," also "establish the validity or authenticity of a will, etc." By c. 1300 as "test and find worthy, virtuous, false, etc.," also "find out, discover, ascertain; prove by argument." By mid-14c. as "check the accuracy of." The meaning "be found to be (a hero, coward, etc.) by experience or trial" is by late 14c.
The word had many more senses and broader application in Middle English than Modern English: "to experience; to strive, endeavor; act, accomplish; thrive, succeed." Also in Middle English in a now-obsolete sense of "approve, sanction, praise" (c. 1300; compare approve). Related: Proved; proven; proving. Proving ground "place used for firing cannons for making ballistics tests and testing powder" is by 1837.