Quiz: which opposite came first?
There are plenty of words which come in pairs, as it were, so that knowing the definition of one will almost certainly mean you know the definition of the other. If you’ve understood organized, you’ll also be able to work out what disorganized means; the definition of hygienic leads neatly to the definition of unhygienic, and so on and so forth. The prefixes in-, un-, dis-, de-, and irr- often clue in the wordsmith to a verb or adjective which simply means the opposite of its complementary verb or adjective.
Of course, there are few words which throw up some confusion. Flammable and inflammable both indicate that something can be set on fire. Someone can be inane, but nobody has ever been ane – although some back-formations have gained currency and entered the Oxford English Dictionary.
You might assume that the ‘positive’ verb or adjective precedes its opposite. One must do before one can undo, surely? Well, not always. Try our quiz, and see if you know which of each pair of words came first…