Entries linking to unresolved
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.
late 14c., resolven, "melt, dissolve, reduce to liquid; separate into component parts; alter, alter in form or nature by application of physical process," " intransitive sense from c. 1400; from Old French resolver or directly from Latin resolvere "to loosen, loose, unyoke, undo; explain; relax; set free; make void, dispel."
This is from re-, here perhaps intensive or meaning "back" (see re-), + solvere "to loosen, untie, release, explain," from PIE *se-lu-, from reflexive pronoun *s(w)e- (see idiom) + root *leu- "to loosen, divide, cut apart."
From the notion of "separate into components" comes the sense in optics (1785; see resolution). From the notion of "reduce by mental analysis into its basic forms" (late 14c.) comes the meaning "determine, decide upon" after analysis (1520s), hence "pass a resolution" (1580s); "decide, settle" a dispute, etc. (1610s). For sense evolution, compare resolute (adj.).
In Middle English also "vaporize a solid, condense a vapor into a liquid, etc.;" a mid-15c. document has Sche was resoluyd in-to terys where a later writer might have she dissolved in tears. Related: Resolved; resolving.
updated on June 22, 2012