Difference Between Semi and Demi
Semi vs Demi
Many are confused between the suffixes “semi” and “demi.” Nonetheless, there’s a third suffix they may also find confusing – “hemi.” In the most technical sense these prefixes mean the same thing. When connected to a root word, they imply something that it halved 1/2 or 50 per cent. It’s just that these prefixes are used with their own set of root words. And so, the “semi” prefix may be the most suitable prefix to use for some words as opposed to “demi.” The same is also true vice versa.
A good example is the root word “sphere.” When combining it with a prefix to signify separating it into two distinct divisions, then you’ll use the prefix “hemi” not “demi” not even “semi.” The final word turns out to be “hemisphere.” Another example is the word “circle.” You always encounter the word “semicircle” and not “demicircle” since there’s no such term. There’s only one word having all three prefixes in it – hemisemidemiquaver, which in the art of music, refers to the 64th note.
In terms of the nature of the word, “semi” has a Latin origin while “demi” has French roots. Both of which can be translated literally as “half.” Nevertheless, it is important to know the origins of these prefixes because in most cases they are paired with a root word that has the same word of origin. For as long as you’re familiar with the origin of the word, then this is surely the easiest rule but still not applicable in all situations.
Demi-prefixed words are said to have been formed at the time of the new Norman lexical inventory or the period of French lingua franca (when it was the working language). That’s why words that pertain to armory, heraldy, fashion, arts, costumes, and the like tend to use the prefix “demi.” “Semi,” on the other hand, is used to connect more technical words in various disciplines; science, arts, math, music, and many others. This is because the majority of technical words in these disciplines are of a Latin origin.
Lastly, based on a congregate analysis done by major dictionaries worldwide, it has been noted that there are about 951 words with a “semi” prefix attachment whereas there are only about 172 demi-prefixed words. Thus, “semi” is the most commonly used prefix that means “half” while “demi” is the least common. The other prefix “hemi” has only about 215 words more or less.
1.“Semi” is a more common prefix than “demi.”
2.“Semi” has a Latin origin while “demi” is of French roots.
3.Although not always true, “semi” is best paired with root words of the same Latin origin.
4.Although not always true, “demi” is best paired with root words of the same French origin.
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