I remember hearing once about the etymology of disgruntled, probably based around a joke about how people can not be gruntled. The explanation given was that there was never a word gruntled, rather the dis‑  in disgruntled is actually a usage of the old prefix where it acts like an amplifier.

Firstly, is this true?

Secondly, are there any other words that use this prefix in this way?

  • Can people be "tracted" or "torted"?
    – user730
    Dec 15, 2010 at 1:19
  • Somewhat related: "Kempt" by Tripod: youtube.com/watch?v=IngvNUaWvck .
    – MGOwen
    Dec 15, 2010 at 4:33
  • I'd like to point out that, although there was no gruntled there was a gruntle. See this link.
    – Eldroß
    Dec 15, 2010 at 9:02

3 Answers 3


In the Oxford American Dictionaries, the prefix dis‑  can also express

completeness or intensification of an unpleasant or unattractive action

This definition cites the examples discombobulate and disgruntled.

Other interesting examples of words having the prefix in this particular sense are disaster, distend, and disport.

As an addendum, dis‑  obviously has other implications, for example reversal, separation, removal, negation, etc., but I’m focusing on the meaning specified by the author of this question.

  • Discombobulate is a wholly contrived word. To the extent we can break into a prefix and root, dis- here is clearly negates combobulate (see: recombobulate - to put back in order). Disaster is "bad star," to distend is "apart" + "pull" (literally, rather than figurative but some sense) and disport is "away" + "carry." The only one that this "completeness" sense is disgruntled, and I have not be able to find a sensible origin for that sense of dis-. Nov 5, 2022 at 21:31

How about discordant? I don't think anything is ever cordant.

  • 1
    Can anything be "membered" or "gusted", too?
    – user730
    Dec 15, 2010 at 2:38
  • 5
    The thing is not all the roots of words beginning with the prefix "dis-" will make sense on their own. "dis-" denotes several things, some of which are expulsion, removal and separation. "dis-" also negates. Thus, in "discordant", which means "lack of harmony", "dis-" negates or denotes a lack. In "dismember", "dis-" denotes separation. In "disgust", "dis-" reverses the taste, as it were. The OP's question deals with "dis-" as specific to denoting "amplification" or "intensification", especially of something unpleasant.
    – Jimi Oke
    Dec 15, 2010 at 2:47
  • 1
    As an example, "distend" means "to swell". Another is "disport", which is an old word for "partying too hard"!
    – Jimi Oke
    Dec 15, 2010 at 2:51
  • I was jesting of course; more often than not, a lot of prefixes and suffixes assume duties different from the conventional.
    – user730
    Dec 15, 2010 at 3:03
  • @J. M.: I should be more relaxed, so I can enjoy the humor in life! Thanks for clarifying. I'm slow, sometimes.
    – Jimi Oke
    Dec 15, 2010 at 9:38

The only one I can think of is disheveled. Or perhaps disaster?

  • 1
    Let me take some of that back. Apparently the "sheveled" in "disheveled" comes from a French word for "hair." Sorry, I should have done my research! Dec 15, 2010 at 0:04
  • 5
    And, according to this link (grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/why-isnt-gruntled-a-word.aspx) "grunetlen" was a Middle English word, and it was indeed possible to be "gruntled." Apparently, not anymore! Dec 15, 2010 at 0:06

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