Indifferent

I came across this word while reading today, and I noticed that it’s a little unusual. We usually think of in- as a negative prefix, making a word the opposite of the word that follows the prefix. But indifferent isn’t the opposite of different.

Or is it?

Not really, but there is a logic to it. The word comes from the Latin indifferentem, meaning not different, not particular, neither good nor evil. If you’re indifferent to something, you think it’s neither good nor bad. If it’s a dish, for example, then you don’t feel different whether you eat it or not. Over time, the word became a little more negative, and today means more that you have no interest in something, rather than simply having no strong feelings about it.

You can see therefore that indifferent isn’t just a case of adding in- to different, and that it’s quite an old word which still has a logical link to the concept of difference.

I may expand a little more on this interesting prefix in- though, tomorrow!

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