Is this word spelt dysfunction or disfunction?
Are there any correct spellings at all for this word?

The reason I asked is because I've always learned to spell it as "disfunction" until recently, when I realized I'm starting to see more of "dysfunction"

  • What's wrong with "malfunction"? Latin-latin construction, clear meaning. – Oskar Limka Feb 8 '18 at 23:59

Dysfunction is by far the more common according to Google Ngrams

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    Popularity of usage does not mean it is correct – Thursagen May 10 '11 at 12:56
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    Perhaps not, but such an extreme difference in literary usage is indicative of something. – Henry May 10 '11 at 13:22
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    @Third Idiot: isn't common usage often used as a proxy for correctness? That's the most common argument I've heard about why it's acceptable to end a sentence with a proposition. – Ben Hocking May 12 '11 at 1:21
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    @Thursagen We might distinguish between different types of linguistic correctness—it's not an absolute concept, after all. I would argue that we could look at etymological correctness versus common usage correctness, etc... – Kazark Mar 28 '12 at 20:14
  • @Thursagen, You're a prescriptivist? – Pacerier Nov 1 '16 at 22:06

Hugo found a useful thread at Word Reference.

It points out that dys- is Greek in origin, and means "bad or difficult" and that function is Latin in origin and means "an activity that is natural to or the purpose of a person or thing". It goes on to say that the combination of Greek and Latin is somewhat odd, especially since dys-'s homophone dis- is Latin (but it does not mean the same as dys-).

The dis- prefix doesn't work for dysfunction because its meanings (as explained here) are not the same as dys-, so they would change the meaning of dysfunction.

The correct spelling is dysfunction. It would not surprise me, however, if disfunction became an accepted spelling, because it just seems more normal.

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    (In case you notice I'm ripping off the previously accepted answer, there is a reason) – Matt E. Эллен Jun 26 '12 at 10:35
  • Purely ethymological considerations: 'dis-: 1. Expressing negation 2. [...] absence of action or state' – combining with function, wouldn't that mean that there's no function at all? That might be more useful for adjectives, though: Some object is disfunctional -> it doesn't have any function at all (by design?). Or: Some device is disfunctional -> completely off vs. dysfunctional -> running, but in bad state, not doing what it is supposed to do. Would that allow to conclude disfunctional is stricter than dysfunctional? – Aconcagua Sep 18 '19 at 13:44

If you try searching disfunction on the OALD, you can see it won't find it.

Same goes for the NOAD. The only one that had it signalled as variant is the Oxford English Dictionary.

Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that the word doesn't exist, but I'd interpret it as a signal that the NOAD and the OALD consider it to be non standard or at least not common enough.

So, if you say dysfunction, you're safe.

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