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Dissociate vs. Disassociate: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 11, 2023
Both "Dissociate" and "Disassociate" mean to disconnect or detach; "Dissociate" is more common, while "Disassociate" is a lengthier alternative.

Key Differences

The term Dissociate typically refers to the action of separating or detaching oneself from something. Its etymology is direct, coming from the prefix "dis-" meaning "apart" and "socius" meaning "companion." This word is commonly employed in both psychological and general contexts. On the other hand, Disassociate carries the same meaning of detaching or disconnecting but has an added prefix, making it a tad redundant.
Interestingly, while both Dissociate and Disassociate mean to sever a connection or relationship, the former is preferred in most contexts due to its more straightforward formation. In contrast, Disassociate might be seen as an overextension of the word, yet it's still recognized and used, especially in American English.
In the realm of psychology, Dissociate often refers to a disconnection between different facets of an individual's identity, memory, or consciousness. People might dissociate from traumatic events, for instance. Disassociate can also be employed in this context, although it's less frequently used in professional terminology.
While both words can be employed interchangeably in many situations, Dissociate is more common in scientific, technical, or formal writings. Disassociate, though less common, is still grammatically correct and might appear in various writings or discussions.
The choice between Dissociate and Disassociate often boils down to personal or regional preference. Both communicate the idea of severing ties or detaching, yet the former's concise nature might make it the preferred choice for many speakers and writers.

Comparison Chart


Direct derivation
Extended derivation

Usage Frequency

More common
Less common


To detach or disconnect
To detach or disconnect


Longer due to added prefix

Preference in Formal Writing

Often preferred
Less frequent but still accepted

Dissociate and Disassociate Definitions


To detach or separate from something.
She wanted to dissociate herself from the controversial group.


To remove from association or connection.
The brand tried to disassociate itself from the scandal.


To sever a connection.
It's important to dissociate personal feelings from professional decisions.


To separate or disconnect in one's mind.
She found it hard to disassociate the idea of success from long hours of work.


To disconnect in thought or practice.
He tried to dissociate his actions from any negative consequences.


To detach oneself from a group or affiliation.
He chose to disassociate from the organization.


To undergo dissociation (in a chemical context).
The compound will dissociate into its constituent ions.


To break a bond or connection.
They decided to disassociate their partnership.


A psychological phenomenon where one disconnects from reality.
Under stress, some people might dissociate.


To free from any association or connection.
They sought to disassociate themselves from the negative publicity.


To remove from association; separate
"Marx never dissociated man from his social environment" (Sidney Hook).


To remove from association; dissociate.


(Chemistry) To cause to undergo dissociation.


To separate (oneself); to dissolve one's association with a person, group, or situation.
After the scandal, the political party disassociated itself from the questionable candidate.
If the whole membership disassociates, the result will be disestablishment.


To cease associating; separate; part.


(transitive) To separate into smaller discrete units, as with analysis.
The problem is easier to understand if you disassociate the variables.


Chemistry & Psychiatry To undergo dissociation.


To separate; to disunite; to disintegrate; to dissolve.
The fibers of this nonwoven textile disassociated when I tried to wash it.


(transitive) To make unrelated; to sever a connection; to separate.
A number of group members wish to dissociate themselves from the majority.


To disconnect from things associated; to disunite; to dissociate.


(intransitive) To part; to stop associating.
After the big fight, the gang totally dissociated from each other.


Part; cease or break association with;
She disassociated herself from the organization when she found out the identity of the president


To separate compounds into simpler component parts, usually by applying heat or through electrolysis.
We dissociated the lead iodide into its elements by heating


To undergo dissociation.


To undergo dissociation.
Gerald checked himself into the hospital because he was dissociating.


To separate from fellowship or union; to disunite; to disjoin; as, to dissociate the particles of a concrete substance.
Before Wyclif's death in 1384, John of Gaunt had openly dissociated himself from the reformer.


Part; cease or break association with;
She disassociated herself from the organization when she found out the identity of the president


Regard as unconnected;
You must dissociate these two events!
Decouple our foreign policy from ideology


To undergo a reversible or temporary breakdown of a molecule into simpler molecules or atoms;
Acids dissociate to give hydrogen ions


Are Dissociate and Disassociate synonyms?

Yes, both words convey the idea of detaching or disconnecting.

Which is more common, Dissociate or Disassociate?

Dissociate is more commonly used.

Can Dissociate be used in a psychological context?

Yes, it can refer to a detachment from reality or emotions.

Do both words have the same root?

Yes, both derive from "socius," meaning companion.

Is Dissociate shorter in terms of spelling?

Yes, it's more concise due to the lack of an extra prefix.

Is Disassociate grammatically correct?

Yes, while less common, it's still accepted and understood.

Can I use Disassociate in academic writing?

Yes, though Dissociate might be more common in such contexts.

Is one more formal than the other?

Dissociate is often preferred in formal writings, but both are formal.

Can Disassociate be used to mean distancing from a controversy?

Yes, like disassociating oneself from a scandal.

Can Disassociate imply a voluntary action?

Yes, like choosing to disassociate from a group.

Which is more concise?

Dissociate is more concise due to its direct derivation.

What's the main difference between the two?

Mostly preference, with Dissociate being more direct and common.

Are there regions where one is more favored than the other?

Both are used in American English, but Dissociate might be more globally recognized.

Can Disassociate mean breaking a partnership?

Yes, like ending a business association.

In everyday speech, which is more prevalent?

It varies by individual, but Dissociate is generally more common.

Is Dissociate used in medical contexts?

Yes, especially relating to psychological dissociative disorders.

Does Dissociate have a chemical meaning?

Yes, referring to a compound breaking down into its components.

Which is older in usage?

Dissociate has an earlier recorded use.

Are they interchangeable in all contexts?

Generally, yes, though Dissociate is more common in specific technical contexts.

Do both words suggest a complete separation?

Yes, both suggest a detachment or disconnection.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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