The prefix dis often makes a word negative. It is a negative prefix. For example: courage and discourage, the latter is the opposite of the former. Continue and discontinue, honest and dishonest and many more.

But gusting and disgusting are not opposites?? Why is this so? I can't think of any other words that show the same behavior. Is there any reason why both of them are not opposites?

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    Perhaps they invented the word 'disgust' prior to inventing 'gust'. (This is a very casual comment, not an answer, not even slightly inclined.) – Dhanishtha Ghosh Nov 19 '20 at 12:40
  • @DhanishthaGhosh Maybe. It would be awesome if you could explain it in an answer ;-) – Sphinx Nov 19 '20 at 12:41
  • Oh no, I don't know the correct etymologies and I don't want to put you off the track. Hence I added the words 'casual'. I am sure someone knowing the concepts in depth can answer it. I will definitely look forward to this post. – Dhanishtha Ghosh Nov 19 '20 at 12:48
  • A point to note: 'disgust' is a verb. However, 'disgusting' is an adjective, and 'gusting' is a verb. Two complete different parts of speech altogether. The antonyms usually always belong to the same part of speech. Like: continue and discontinue, honest and dishonest, etc. – Dhanishtha Ghosh Nov 19 '20 at 13:00
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    This is a long story of etymology and linguistic history, maybe more appropriate for english.stackexchange than for ell. – Canadian Yankee Nov 19 '20 at 13:04

The short answer is that the word disgust was imported into English from French with the prefix already attached, but the word without a prefix was not also imported.

Longer answer:

If you look at the etymology of the word disgust, you'll see that it comes from the 16th-century Middle French word desgouster, which was formed from des- (a negative prefix) and gouster (to have a taste for). By some accident of history, only desgouster was adopted into Middle English and eventually the modern English disgust, though you can see evidence of gouster in the rarely-used word gustatory.

Both of these words continue to exist in modern French, with the letter 's' being turned into diacritics: goûter means "to taste" or "to like the taste of"; dégoûter means "to dislike the taste of".

So why wasn't gouster also imported into English? Again, it's probably just an accident, but there are two possible contributing factors:

  1. As @rjpond notes, the word gust already existed as a Norse import having a completely unrelated meaning.
  2. There's another Middle French word, taster, that originally meant "to touch or sample" that was imported into Middle English. Since then, it has evolved differently in each modern language: in modern English, taste exclusively means "to sample by mouth", but in modern French, tâter exclusively means "to sample by touch" or "to feel out". So the modern English "to taste" now means the same thing as the modern French "goûter".
  • This is very interesting! (I also found another pair: "appointed" and "disappointed".) – Sphinx Nov 19 '20 at 13:44
  • They're called unpaired words (also see this article). – Void Nov 19 '20 at 17:06
  • @Void I am gruntled by your knowing a technical term for this. – Canadian Yankee Nov 19 '20 at 19:17

"Gust" means a rush of wind and is from Norse "gustr". This gives us the verb "gust" meaning "to blow in gusts".

"Gust" is also a dialect word meaning "taste" (from Latin "gustus") or "to taste" (Latin "gustare"). There is an archaic word "gustful" meaning tasty or pleasant, and Scottish "gusty" meaning tasty or appetising.

"Disgust" was borrowed from French, not formed directly from dis + gust.

  • Oh, it actually makes a lot of sense. – Sphinx Nov 19 '20 at 13:23

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