Printable Version
Pronunciation: dis-pah-zê-tiv Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Related to, effecting the disposition of something, that disposes of something, that settles an issue.

Notes: If, the first time you met this word, you thought it meant something like "negative", you misanalysed it as dis-positive, so you were led down the garden path by today's word. It is, in fact, the positive adjective from dispose (of). The passive adjective is disposable "that can be thrown away", which has taken on a new sense. The action noun, of course, is disposition "inclination, attitude" with, again, a meaning all its own.

In Play: This word appears most frequently in court documents: "A dispositive motion seeks a trial court order that entirely disposes of all claims in favor of the moving party." However, it finds its uses elsewhere, too: "According to AstraZeneca, the US trials did not disclose any clotting, though given clotting's rarity, the results are not dispositive."

Word History: This word came to Late Middle English from the feminine of Old French dispositif, dispositive. This word was handed down to French from Medieval Latin dispositivus, an adjective built from Latin dispositus "arranged", the past participle of the verb disponere "to arrange, place here and there". This word comprises dis- "apart, un-" + ponere "to put, place". Dis- was inherited from PIE duo-s-/due-s- "two" which also led to Latin bis "twice" and, without the suffix, duo. The sense of "two" led to the notion of "two ways, in twain" hence "apart, asunder". The origin of ponere is still under discussion. Some think it is from PIE po-s(i)nere, from apo- "off, away" + sinere "to leave, let". Others think it comes Proto-Italic posine-, from PIE tkine- "to build, live" from root tkei- "to settle, dwell, be home". Aside from these speculations, who knows? (Let's now, yet again, thank Dan Obertance for recognizing the curiosity of today's Good Word and suggesting we do it.)

Dr. Goodword,

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