fbpx

What is the origin of disambiguate?

Disambiguate “to remove the ambiguity from” is based on the adjective ambiguous “open to or having several possible meanings or interpretations,” plus the affixes dis-, indicating reversal, and -ate, indicating a verb. Ambiguous, from Latin ambiguus, is derived from the verb ambigere “to dispute, contend,” which is a compound of the prefix ambi- “both” and the verb agere “to do, drive.” Ambi- crops up in English terms such as ambidextrous (literally “both right-handed”), ambient (“going both (directions)”), ambivalent (“both strong”), and past Word of the Day ambivert (“turned both ways”). Agere is a rather productive verb with numerous stems: ag- appears in agenda, agent, and agile; -ig- is found in litigate, navigate, and castigate and its synonym past Word of the Day fustigate; and finally act- is found in action, activity, and exact. Disambiguate was first recorded in English in the early 1960s.