Entries linking to unsure
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.
early 13c., "safe against attack, secure," later "firm, reliable" (c. 1300); "mentally certain, confident" (mid-14c.); "firm, strong, resolute" (c. 1400), from Old French seur, sur "safe, secure; undoubted, dependable, trustworthy" (12c.), from Latin securus "free from care, untroubled, heedless, safe" (see secure (adj.)).
As an affirmative meaning "yes, certainly" it dates from 1803, from Middle English meanings "firmly established; having no doubt," and phrases such as to be sure (1650s), sure enough (1540s), and for sure (1580s).
The use as an adverb meaning "assuredly" goes back to early 14c. Sure-footed is from 1630s, literal and figurative; sure thing dates from 1836. In 16c.-17c., Suresby was an appellation for a person to be depended upon (see rudesby).
updated on September 28, 2012