In Oxford dictionary, it defines unqualify

with object To make unqualified; to disqualify.


Declare (someone) ineligible for an office, activity, or competition because of an offence or infringement.

Is it the same to say 'an unqualified product' and 'a disqualified product'?


With adjectives (and this includes past participles made by verb + -ed), the un- prefix means that something has never had the specified property. The dis- prefix means that something had the specified property but it was taken away.

He is unqualified but very competent - the person has never had any relevant qualifications

He won the race, but was disqualified after a drugs test - he was eligible to participate in the race when it started, but the officials cancelled his eligibilty when they found that he had been taking drugs

With verbs, both prefixes mean doing the opposite of the verb without prefix, and do not provide any information about its history. Generally only one of the two is valid for a particular verb: uncouple is valid, discouple is not. disinter is valid, uninter is not.

  • That answer refers to the use of the prefixes with adjectives. Their use with verbs is different. – Colin Fine Jan 19 '18 at 11:55
  • In fact, with verbs, I would argue that the prefixes are roughly the other way round! See my answer. – Colin Fine Jan 19 '18 at 12:07
  • Your first comment makes a good point: I have updated my answer.... as for the second, this question is actually about the past/passive participles which function as adjectives. – JavaLatte Jan 19 '18 at 12:14
  • You're right, @JavaLatte: the question appeared to be about the verb, but was actually about the adjective. I'll edit my answer. Actually, the OP's specific question (about an unqualified/disqualified product) shows that your answer is not completely general: disqualified need not mean that the qualification has been taken away, but can mean that it was tested and failed to meet the criteria in the first place. Unqualified means that it has never been tested. – Colin Fine Jan 19 '18 at 16:01

Edit: JavaLatte points out that your question is actually about the adjectives un/disqualified, not about the verbs. This is important because (as my answer explains) the use and meaning of the prefixes is very different between verbs and adjectives.

The prefix un- with a verb generally has a meaning of reversing or taking back some action. Because most actions in the real world can't actually be reversed once they have been done, before the advent of computer interfaces the prefix was more or less restricted to verbs of wrapping, enclosing, attaching: unlock, unfasten, unwrap, uncover. There were exceptions, but they were very rare.

In the virtual world of computer interfaces, there are many more actions which can be reversed, and so the prefix un- has recently become much more productive: words like undelete, and unsubscribe have become common.

I have never heard unqualify, but I would take it to mean "remove the state of being qualified" (or the corresponding unaccusative sense "cease to be qualified"). "Disqualify", on the other hand, could have this meaning, but could also mean "Prevent from ever being qualified".

In the particular instance you ask (an unqualified product vs a disqualified product) I would understand that an unqualified product has never been through whatever process is used to qualify products: it may qualify, or it may not, but it hasn't been evaluated. A disqualified product is one that has failed to qualify.

  • Interestingly, with non-neutral words like disaster, failure or success, unqualified has a different meaning; it doesn't need to be "qualified"/(modified). – eques Jan 19 '18 at 18:35
  • @eques: True. I would say that qualifies (he, he!) as an idiom: not only doesn't it allow disqualified, it barely allows qualified. I think you can get away with "a qualified success", but not "a qualified disaster". – Colin Fine Jan 20 '18 at 19:54

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