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Disharmony is a Greek word with a Latin prefix meaning “absence of harmony” or “bad harmony”. So why not spell it dysharmony, as one spells dysfunction or dyspepsia?

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If you are looking for logic in word spellings, English is not the language for you. – T.E.D. Jul 6 '12 at 14:00
Additionally, since this is an English language forum, the question should have been written in this way: "Why is 'disharmony' not spelled 'dysharmony?'" ;) – user54066 Oct 13 '13 at 21:16
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Dis- is a Latin prefix, whereas dys- is a Greek one. Much of English stems from Latin, so it certainly makes sense for dis- to be the more common prefix, though you are correct that dys- as a prefix has a meaning similar to dis-.

Dys- is often used in a scientific context (where Greek gets a fair amount of use in addition to Latin) for terms like dysgraphia and dyslexia. Dys- tends to be used more to mean “bad, improper” rather than “the opposite of”, as you'll note from my examples; dysgraphia is not the opposite of writing, but rather means that one’s writing is impaired.

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i found actually a word combination 'marital dysharmony' so this variant is also of some use – Igor Urazowski Nov 8 '11 at 3:55
In medical terminology, dys- generally means "difficult", not "bad or improper" - dyspnea, difficulty breathing; dysphagia, difficulty eating; dyslexia, difficulty reading. I do admit that dysfunction, as in "sexual dysfunction", could be read either way. – MT_Head Jul 7 '12 at 6:17

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