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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.
mid-14c., publishen, "make publicly known, reveal, divulge, announce;" an alteration (by influence of banish, finish, etc.) of publicen (early 14c.), which is from the extended stem of Old French publier "make public, spread abroad, communicate," from Latin publicare "make public," from publicus "public, pertaining to the people" (see public (adj.)).
The meaning "issue (a book, etc.) to the public, cause to be printed and offered for sale or distribution" is from late 14c., also "to disgrace, put to shame; denounce publicly." Related: Published; publishing. In Middle English the verb also meant "to people, populate; to multiply, breed" (late 14c.), for example ben published of "be descended from."
updated on June 21, 2012
unpublished letters and diaries