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.

When we denude something we strip it, like the branches of a tree. That seems a bit inverted to me, shouldn't it be to nude-something?

share|improve this question
Like we skin a goat and dress a chicken. –  Kris Nov 1 '12 at 5:51
And we dust the furniture. –  Fuhrmanator Nov 1 '12 at 7:03
Dust the top of the cake lightly with icing sugar. –  user16269 Nov 1 '12 at 8:19
@DavidWallace Dusting in this case is akin to icing -- not removing something off the cake, but applying sugar dust. –  Kris Nov 1 '12 at 11:36
add comment

3 Answers 3

Prefixes can have multiple uses. In the case of denude:


late Middle English: from Latin denudare, from de- 'completely' + nudare 'to bare' (from nudus 'naked')

share|improve this answer
de ='completely' surprises me, though. Waiting to up vote. –  Kris Nov 1 '12 at 6:26
In fact, that definition can decide the very validity of OP's question, and therefore if it should be closed. –  Kris Nov 1 '12 at 6:28
@Kris some definitions of de- could mean intensity. –  Fuhrmanator Nov 1 '12 at 7:13
add comment

Because sometimes Latin’s de- prefix meant something else than to strip something away or to undo or reverse the action of a verb. And so it also has come down to us as something else in English.

You were thinking of OED sense 6, so here are the OED’s senses 3–5 for de- to illustrate just a few of the other possibilities for that prefix:

3. Down to the bottom, completely; hence thoroughly on and on, away; also methodically, formally:

  • as dēclāmāre to shout away, declaim;
  • dēclārāre to make quite clear, declare;
  • dēnūdāre to strip quite bare, denude;
  • dēplōrāre to weep as lost, deplore;
  • dērelinquĕre to abandon completely, derelict;
  • dēspoliāre to spoil utterly, despoil.

b. To exhaustion, to the dregs:

  • as dēcoquĕre to boil down or away, decoct;
  • dēliquēscĕre to melt away, deliquesce.

4. In a bad sense, so as to put down or subject to some indignity:

  • as dēcipĕre to take in, deceive;
  • dēlūdĕre to make game of, delude;
  • dērīdēre to laugh to scorn, deride;
  • dētestārī to abominate, detest.

5. In late L., dēcompositus was used by the grammarians in the sense ‘formed or derived from a compound (word)’, passing later into that of ‘compounded over again, doubly or further compounded’; in this sense the word has in modern times been taken into chemistry, botany, etc. (see decomposite, decompound), and the prefix has been similarly used in other words, as decomplex, demixture.

There actually is a word that is constructed and means what you seem to be expecting of denude, and that is debare. Again per the OED:

trans. To strip down, make quite bare.

Hence † deˈbared ppl. a. So † deˈbare a., intensive of bare a.

  • 1567 Drant Horace’s Arte of Poetrie A ij, ― As wooddes are made debayre of leaues by turnyng of the yeare.
  • C. 1620 T. Robinson M. Magd. 223 ― Next her debared brests bewitch mine eyes.

As you see, it hasn’t been used much for quite some time. The OED labels it obsolete. Best stick with denude.

share|improve this answer
add comment

No, it should not.

You are assuming that the verb denude has been constructed from the adjective nude.

That is not the case. The latin root is dēnūdō (and hence present infinitive dēnūdāre, perfect active dēnūdāvī, supine dēnūdātum.)

share|improve this answer
You could cite a reference to be helpful. In fact, it is de + nude alright, just that nudere itself here has the meaning "to strip," derived in turn from nude, bare. See links at comment under OP. –  Kris Nov 1 '12 at 5:48
add comment

Your Answer


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.