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I noticed that there are words "dissoluble", "dissolute", and "soluble", "solute". In one word, the terms with "dis-" and without "dis-". What is the difference between them?

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hey, I'm not a native, I cannot find any differentiation in dictionary, so I asked. – esperisto Aug 17 '11 at 8:59
synonym.com/synonyms/soluble – simchona Aug 17 '11 at 9:33
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Dissoluble means soluble? What a country.

They do mean the same thing, except that dissoluble is not in common use whereas soluble is. I would suggest that in scientific and academic circles you use the term soluble to claim that something can be dissolved. In a more casual setting, dissoluble would be alright.

A second note is that "soluble", if you don't specify, usually means "water soluble." I'm not sure if this same assumption exists for dissoluble.

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Though they both mean "able to be dissolved", they different in what type of things than can refer to: as you noted, soluble implies a substance that can be dissolved in a liquid. Dissoluble is use for more abstract ideas, like a legal union or contract. – AlannaRose Aug 20 '14 at 3:02

Actually, there is a difference.

Soluble means specifically a substance being dissolved, typically in a liquid:

(Of a substance) able to be dissolved, especially in water

Whereas dissoluble that something can be dissolved, period:

Able to be dissolved, loosened, or disconnected: permitting divorce would render every marriage dissoluble

and is typically used in a legal sense, such as an "easily dissoluble union".

Thus if you are talking about a substance, such as sugar, you would use soluble. If you are talking about a more abstract concept, such as a legal union, you would use dissoluble.

There is also apparently another definition of "soluble", which is something that is solvable:

(Of a problem) able to be solved: there have been periods when crime and disorder seemed soluble problems

This is not a usage I have ever seen as an American English speaker, and a google ngram implies it is no longer in heavy use. It seems to have been more popular in British English, so it may be that soluble is still used in BrE in everyday conversations.

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Concerning solubility of problems: My impression is that "soluble" in this sense is chiefly British, the U.S. equivalent being "solvable". – Andreas Blass Aug 20 '14 at 3:33
I originally left that off because I felt that the secondary definition was somewhat off-topic, and furthermore soluble is still less popular in the BrE ngram since about 1990. I went ahead and added it back in, though; not fair to assume they would use AmE. – AlannaRose Aug 20 '14 at 3:42

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