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I was asked: what is the difference between merge and mix?

If I said “I will mix the colors”, is it the same as if I said “I will merge the colors”?

When should we use either verb?

  • It might help to note that merge derives from Latin mergere to dip, plunge (cf immerse). Whereas mix is from Latin mixtus, past participle of miscere "to mix, mingle, blend; fraternize with; throw into confusion". Merge is more about the action of combining (often, relatively smoothly), mix is about the resultant mixture (often rapidly/carelessly thrown together). – FumbleFingers Jun 13 '13 at 19:17
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    ...which is why in the BrE vernacular you mix it with someone when you get involved in a fight (no-one ever merges into a fight). – FumbleFingers Jun 13 '13 at 19:18
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You would not say that you merge the colors.

You also would not say that you mix into traffic.

I am not actually sure why, a quick dictionary search didn't make it clearer.

But I think you merge things when they keep their general form or configuration but blend together... where as you mix things when they get all out of order in the process.

Like with a deck of cards - merging two halves of the decks (shuffling -- we never actually say 'merge' about cards) -- mixing would be like dumping all the cards on the table and spreading them around with your hands.

Merge is less commonly used, btw - The two rivers merged into one, We merged the two businesses, there was an accident where the express lane merges into traffic.

  • But we would never say we "merged" the cards, and would rarely say we "mixed" them. – TecBrat Jun 13 '13 at 18:40
  • @TecBrat Yes true, people would normally say: "shuffle". – Mari-Lou A Jun 14 '13 at 9:48
  • You do mix dominos, on the other hand, even though they keep their form. I think the difference is that when they're mixed, you don't know where each individual one has gone (as they're turned over) so they appear to have lost configuration. – WendiKidd Jun 14 '13 at 23:25

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