It seems to me that "solve a conflict" is not correct, but "resolve a conflict" is.

Does "resolve" mean "solve" again? Does "re-" in "resolve" mean repeating the action of solving?

in the cases where I see "resolve a conflict", I don't see the conflict is solved repeatedly.

  • 2
    The Oxford Dictionary says Origin Late Middle English (in the senses ‘dissolve, disintegrate’ and ‘solve (a problem)’): from Latin resolvere, from re- (expressing intensive force) + solvere ‘loosen’. so it seems the re- in this case is different from the one that means again. en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/resolve – Roger Sinasohn May 11 '17 at 20:15

The prefix re-:

  • word-forming element meaning "back to the original place; again, anew, once more," also with a sense of "undoing," c. 1200, from Old French and directly from Latin re- ".

  • Often merely intensive, and in many of the older borrowings from French and Latin the precise sense of re- is lost in secondary senses or weakened beyond recognition. OED writes that it is "impossible to attempt a complete record of all the forms resulting from its use," and adds that "The number of these is practically infinite...".

The meaning appears to derive from the adjective "resolute", from which the current sense of resolve. The prefix re- in resolve appears to be an intensifier rather than suggest a reiteration:


late 14c., "melt, dissolve, reduce to liquid;" intransitive sense from c. 1400; from Old French resolver or directly from Latin resolvere "to loosen, loose, unyoke, undo; explain.

  • From early 15c. as "separate into components," hence the use in optics (1785). Meaning "determine, decide upon" is from 1520s, hence "pass a resolution" (1580s). For sense evolution, compare resolute (adj.)


  • early 15c., "dissolved, of loose structure," also "morally lax," from Latin resolutus, past participle of resolvere "untie, unfasten, loose, loosen" (see resolve). Meaning "determined, decided, absolute, final" is from c. 1500, especially in resolute answer, a phrase "common in 16th c." [OED].


Resolve vs solve, usage:

Resolve may be used as a verb to mean:

  • (1) to decide a course of action as an individual or in an assembly by formal vote

  • (2) to break into separate elements and analyze

  • (3) to bring to a conclusion, not necessarily a popular or successful conclusion

  • (4) to find a solution to a problem or mystery.

Solve is a verb which means to find a solution to a problem or mystery.

  • Solve and resolve may be used interchangeably when describing finding a logical, correct and successful solution to a problem or mystery.

(The Grammarist)

  • So, since 'solvere' means to "release, loosen, or cast off", and resolvere means to "untie, unfasten, loose, loosen" whereas dissolvere means "to loosen up, break apart,", is there any further understanding about what/how "re" effects a verb in this sense? Because it doesn't seem to have anything to do with repetition or a recurrence. – John May 11 '17 at 20:06
  • Yes, I understood that from your post. I guess my real question is why might the Romans have the word resolvere when solvere means essentially the same thing. What might we derive as the meaning of "re" here? What I'm beginning to think is solvere means to loosen, where as resolvere may lean toward loosening something that was already done, as in going back or "loosening" something that was previously put together, e.g. un-tie. – John May 11 '17 at 20:17
  • @john: think "uber-" e.g. ubercool; uberstylish; ubernerd – Yorik May 11 '17 at 20:48

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