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In speaking of propositions, not buildings, are premise and premiss variant spellings of the same word, or are they different terms with different usages? The American Heritage Dictionary (3/e) gives premise as the main entry, with premiss as a variant spelling, which I've assumed was British. But one internet source asserts that premiss is preferable because of its etymology; another suggests that premiss is always the correct term in logic.

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2 Answers 2

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The OED has premiss only as a variant spelling of premise, and has a note "In Logic still freq. in form premiss, but in general use now usu. in form premise. (I can't find a date on the entry, but it includes a citation from 2000) "

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Premiss when taken as a logical postulate upon which a philosophical argument is founded.

Premise when a mere, as yet unfounded, presumption.

So one is a subset of the other. They may be interchangeable but not always.

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    Says who? How do we know if your answer is correct or if you're just some dude on the internet making things up? The other answer, with a score of 5 and accepted by the OP, says you're wrong and cites the OED to prove it. Who can you cite?
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 9:54
  • Premises are, strictly speaking, purported reasons given to support a conclusion. Whether the premises give airtight support for the conclusion (deductive) or a weaker type of support (inductive), that is the job of logical analysis. Therefore logical postulates are premises in the sense that they are cited as a reason to support a conclusion, but we usually call such premises 'axioms' to distinguish them from non-axiomatic premises. Axioms are statements upon which we base theories and which cannot be derived from other statements (or we choose not to derive them, for economy sake).
    – john
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 22:13

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