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A friend of mine (who, as far as I know, doesn't have English as a first language, though is fluent) mentioned how odd it was that English had the word admix, and quoted a dictionary definition that stated that it was a synonym of mix. I supposed that an admix was a mix made just by adding two materials together, whereas a mix involved stirring.

This is the entry I found:

tr. & intr.v. ad·mixed, ad·mix·ing, ad·mix·es
To mix; blend.

Am I right that the word is redundant, or does it have another use?

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Note that a quick google books search brings up mainly concrete and pharmacological references: jargon? – horatio Sep 19 '12 at 19:44
Have you checked dictionary definitions for both words? What did they say that was the same or different? – Hugo Sep 19 '12 at 20:56
Related: Admix vs. shuffle – RegDwigнt Sep 19 '12 at 21:19
There are other English word pairs similarly related – where one word can be used as a synonym for the other, but only a prefix differentiates between the two. For example, join & conjoin, camp & encamp. – J.R. Sep 20 '12 at 0:25

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

According to the ODO, admix is being used specifically in technical conversations which is, I grant you, not much of a difference. Its etymology is stated as follows:

late Middle English: back-formation from the obsolete adjective 'admixt', from Latin admixtus 'mixed together', past participle of admiscere, from ad- 'to' + miscere 'to mix'

So your friend should technically have blamed Latin (or its ancestors) rather than English :)

English has a number of such curiosities. The weirdest one I can recall are the words ravel and unravel. The etymology of ravel reads:

1580s, "to untangle, unwind," also "to become tangled or confused," from Du. ravelen "to tangle, fray, unweave," from rafel "frayed thread." The seemingly contradictory senses of this word (ravel and unravel are both synonyms and antonyms) are reconciled by its roots in weaving and sewing: as threads become unwoven, they get tangled.

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I often used it, and saw it used, in my field of histopathology (diagnostic study of human tissues). A typical phrase would have been "admixture of blood clot and tissue fragments".

To me, it helped to convey the fact or observation that two or more elements were present together, but still separate. So, in the above example, it meant you could clearly see that there were bits of blood clot and bits of tissue, rather than a mass of bloody tissue with the two elements being indistinguishable from each other.

However, I see that the OED defines it (as a verb): "To mingle with something else; to add as an ingredient" (my italics).

Whereas MIX is defined as: "To put together (two or more substances, or groups or classes of things) so that the particles or members of each are more or less evenly diffused among those of the rest"

So that would allow us to say something like, "Prepare a dough of flour and water and then admix the raisins." Just saying "add" the raisins doesn't tell you to add them and then mix them together with the existing ingredients.

But with the word "mix" you would have to say "mix in" the raisins. Admittedly, being able to leave out that "in" doesn't exactly make life a lot easier! But hey... maybe in some situations I could imagine it being handy.

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If you were to use the word 'admix' instead of the word 'mix' you would confuse people. 'Admix' is an archaic word that is rarely used.

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That's not really what the OP is asking. Admix is not really all that archaic either. It's used as technical terminology as well as a shortened form of the word admixture. – coleopterist Sep 20 '12 at 3:54
I have never come across the word admix or admixture. I can only assume that its use is very specialised - in other words - that it is a jargon word that is only used in special situations. – Robin Michael Sep 20 '12 at 9:54
ɑkh ɑhɪm ɑkte wiz bɑɹsu:m May the Peace be with you as you venture forth to planets unknown. – Robin Michael Sep 20 '12 at 9:58

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