Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

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?

share|improve this question
2  
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
add comment

1 Answer

up vote 6 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.

share|improve this answer
1  
i found actually a word combination 'marital dysharmony' so this variant is also of some use –  Igor Urazowski Nov 8 '11 at 3:55
1  
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
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.