Interpret demystify literally


I am getting under way to learn vocabulary in etymology.

The word demystify in Online Etymology Dictionary

de - "not, do the opposite of, undo"
mystify - 1814, from French mystifier (1772), a verb formed irregularly from mystique "mysterious" (see mystic (adj.)) + -fier "to make" (see -fy). Related: Mystified; mystifying.

demystify Make (a difficult subject) clearer and easier to understand.

Then demystify is to delete mystery.

Is this a decent way to learn from etymology?


Posted 2017-12-07T01:30:17.400

Reputation: 2 520

1If it works for you, go for it. That's all I can say. – Michael Rybkin – 2017-12-07T01:33:43.047

1I don't know if it makes it "a decent way," but it's pretty much how I think of it, too! – joiedevivre – 2017-12-07T01:38:10.410

If it works, it works. Personally I think that a little etymology helps to get a deeper understanding of the language. Be aware that words don't always follow their etymology in a logical way. While we might talk about 'the mystery of flight MH370', you would not say 'This new evidence demystifies flight MH370.' – smatterer – 2017-12-07T02:53:59.440

Please note: delete mystery does not make sense. And you want to say: beginning to study. To get underway is for things like road trips or events: We got underway very early as we were going to drive a long way. – Lambie – 2019-06-12T12:05:53.570



Yes, this is pretty much exactly how we can guess the meaning of new words, by examining the prefixes, roots, and suffixes. For example:


  • sub-: Latin prefix meaning below, beneath
  • terra: Latin root meaning earth, land, ground
  • -ean: Latin suffix that forms adjectives, often from proper nouns.

We can therefore make the educated guess that "subterranean* is an adjective that means living or existing below ground. Example:

Many of the lakes are connected by subterranean channels, and a change in the surface of one lake is often accompanied by a change in the surface of another.

Keep in mind this only works for certain English words, usually those derived from Latin or Greek. Many common English words are derived from Old Norse or Old German, and may not follow the same patterns.

Additionally, English includes thousands of "borrowed" (more like stolen) words from languages around the world, for which there is no pattern: souvenir, guerrilla, hibachi, chocolate, typhoon, assassin, and many, many more

Relevant: A List of 30 Common Word Roots in English


Posted 2017-12-07T01:30:17.400

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