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Given a word, say deregulate, is there a prefix to denote the opposite, rather than simply saying regulate? It seems fairly illogical to have one but I was wondering if something existed.

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Erm... in general, the opposite of a word prefixed by de- is simply the word - without the prefix. There is nothing illogical about the fact that English doesn't have a specific prefix to mean "not negated". If we had such a prefix, we'd presumably need to put it in front of practically every word we ever used! –  FumbleFingers Oct 24 '11 at 13:11
    
@FumbleFingers If you re-read my question (pun intended) I'm saying that it IS illogical to have one, however "I was wondering if something existed." –  ajnatural Oct 26 '11 at 5:26
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Well, the need for any such "double negation" would be rare indeed, but maybe un- fits the bill. My dictionary lists, for example, undefaced. –  FumbleFingers Oct 26 '11 at 13:35
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Another de also fits the bil: de-deregulate. :) –  Kaz Feb 13 '13 at 1:19
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2 Answers

Regulate means to control or direct according to rule, principle, or law.

Deregulate means to remove regulations.

Re-regulate could mean to add regulations again, possibly after they've had been removed.

If you're doing something for the first time, simply using the root word is sufficient. If you're doing something a second time, you could use a re- prefix, but check for each word.

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Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) lists several words in which the prefix un- negates a word that de- has previously negated:

undeciphered

undecomposed

undefoliated

undeformed

Such instances are quite rare, however, in comparison to the number of words that use re- to override a de- negation. Thus, for example, if a doctor decontaminates a wound with antiseptic, but bacteria later reappear, we say that the new germs "recontaminate" the wound, not that they "undecontaminate" it. Among the word pairs that follow this model are:

decertify/recertify

declassify/reclassify

decolonize/recolonize

decommission/recommission

deconsecrate/reconsecrate

deconstruct/reconstruct

deemphasize/reemphasize

deenergize/reenergize

deescalate/reescalate

dehydrate/rehydrate

deinstitutionalize/reinstitutionalize

delegitimize/relegitimize

delist/relist

demilitarize/remilitarize

denationalize/renationalize

depolarize/repolarize

depopulate/repopulate

deregulate/reregulate

desegregate/resegregate

deselect/reselect

desensitize/resensitize

destabilize/restabilize

detach/reattach

Not all of these pairs are exact opposites (and certainly not in all senses of each term), but a number of them are very nearly so.

Still, noting the existence of this group of paired opposites is very far from saying that replacing a de- prefix with a re- prefix negates the word that de- was attached to. I suspect that Teresa, who contributed an earlier answer nominating en- as a possible negating prefix for words containing the de- prefix, had a similar (albeit smaller) set of opposed word pairs in mind:

decamp/encamp

decipher/encipher

decode/encode

decrypt/encrypt

dethrone/enthrone

Unfortunately, the two instances that Teresa put forward to show en- in direct opposition to de- weren't good examples; but her argument about en- does have some validity, as the five word pairs above demonstrate.

Ultimately, the simple answer to the general question raised in the original post is that no prefix consistently and reliably undoes the negation that de- (or un- or dis-, for that matter) introduces.

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