active word-forming element in English and in many verbs inherited from French and Latin, from Latin de "down, down from, from, off; concerning" (see de), also used as a prefix in Latin, usually meaning "down, off, away, from among, down from," but also "down to the bottom, totally" hence "completely" (intensive or completive), which is its sense in many English words.
As a Latin prefix it also had the function of undoing or reversing a verb's action, and hence it came to be used as a pure privative -- "not, do the opposite of, undo" -- which is its primary function as a living prefix in English, as in defrost (1895), defuse (1943), de-escalate (1964), etc. In some cases, a reduced form of dis-.
in the metric system, word-forming element denoting one-tenth of the standard unit of measure, 1801, from French deci-, taken arbitrarily from Latin decimus "tenth," from decem "ten" (from PIE root *dekm- "ten").
word-forming element meaning "half, half-sized, partial," used in English from mid-14c., especially in technical terms from French, from Old French demi "half" (12c.), from Late Latin dimedius, from Latin dimidius "half, one-half," which contains the elements dis- "apart" (see dis-) + medius "in the middle, between; from the middle," as a noun "the middle;" from PIE root *medhyo- "middle." Formerly also demy-, and in early use often written as a separate word.
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