Co-mingle vs. Commingle

I spotted a typo today that I wanted to address in my Tip of the Day.
The word used was co-mingle, which is not a real word. I can see why the writer thought it would be a word, though.

The prefix “co–” means “with, together, joint or jointly,” and “mingle” means to mix together. So if you’re talking about two separate fluid streams being mixed together, one might think “co-mingle” would express that thought.

However, there are three things wrong with this line of thinking.

First, the prefix “co–” is a joined prefix, which means there would be no hyphen in the word – unless the part of the word after the “co–” starts with the letter O, as in co-owner.

Second, the word “mingle” has the connotation of maintaining the identities of the mingled things. Webster’s Ninth dictionary says: “to bring or mix together or with something else, usually without fundamental loss of identity.” Now, when you mix two production streams, they lose their individual properties, making allocation of the mixture difficult (but not impossible, using the latest technologies).

Third, there is already a proper word for this concept: commingle. Webster defines it thusly: “to blend thoroughly into a harmonious whole.” This captures the reality of what happens when two production streams are combined into a homogenous fluid.

So, let’s use “commingle” when blending two or more streams of production together.

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11 Responses to “Co-mingle vs. Commingle”

  1. Gilo Says:

    Let’s also not say “thusly” when “thus” will do perfectly well and has added the benefit of being correct.

  2. Ryan Says:

    But what about using comingle for multi-stream recycling? The items (aluminum cans, plastics, glass) maintain their distinct properties and are then sorted thusly..

  3. YES Says:

    Merriam-Webster has BOTH “comingle” and “commingle” listed as valid words.

  4. Jadzia Says:

    The word “thusly” is used correctly by the author. It makes more sense as an adverb that means “in this way” in this sentence than “thus” would. “Thus” generally is used to mean “therefore/consequently” and would sound awkward in the sentence in question.

  5. dianamaynard Says:

    You may want to check the OED. It’s been used in its hyphenated form since around 1616, and was good enough for Shakespeare.

    co-ˈmingle, v.
    Etymology: see co- prefix, and commingle v.

    To mingle together.
    a1616 Shakespeare Hamlet (1623) iii. ii. 67 Blest are those, Whose Blood and Iudgement are so well co-mingled [1604 comedled].

  6. amanda Says:

    Thanks for this discussion. Do you call the social mingling of both sexes commingling?

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