Back when I was in high school, the usage of the word "derive" to mean "take the derivative of" was really widespread. It always bothered me because I felt that the proper verb should be "differentiate." I wondering if this use of "derive" is acceptable or not. Has anyone else heard the word "derive" used in this way?

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    $\begingroup$ Not from mathematicians. If I heard someone say "derive" in this sense I would understand what they meant, but assume they were a non-native speaker or a beginning student. $\endgroup$ – user7530 Nov 9 '11 at 13:28
  • $\begingroup$ I tend to hear it from non-native speakers of English (along with things such as "derivate"); of course, I very much prefer "differentiate", even if it's longer... $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Nov 9 '11 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ But "derived function" is the result of this "differentiation". youtube.com/watch?v=N-Hqdyd97Qg&hd=1 $\endgroup$ – GEdgar Nov 9 '11 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ Without this use of "derive" we wouldn't be able to say the joke "Don't drink and derive". "Don't drink and take derivatives" just doesn't work. $\endgroup$ – Joe Johnson 126 Nov 9 '11 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ I heard it for the very first time on MSE itself. $\endgroup$ – Suraj_Singh Nov 15 '15 at 0:04

I say "not acceptable".

I don't recall the grammatical/linguistic term, but it seems like "derive" in that sense needs a "from" somewhere: "This theorem can be derived from blah blah."

"Differentiate", on the other hand, can be used directly with its object: "let's differentiate $f$" and so on.

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    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transitive_verb $\endgroup$ – Nate Eldredge Nov 9 '11 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ So "derive" is intransitive? But intransitive verbs don't take an object, and it seems strange to say "This function can be derived", where there's no object. Can we crosslist this question with english.stackexchange? :) $\endgroup$ – Dan Drake Nov 10 '11 at 0:30
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    $\begingroup$ What about the derived group? $\endgroup$ – Bernard Nov 15 '15 at 0:06

Here is an illuminating xkcd forum thread on the topic. People (myself included) seem to agree that the word 'derive' is incorrect.


dirive musn't be used instead of differentiate...........but that what teachers at High schools do, of which is wrong because at Universities you can't say e.g f(x)=3x^2 f(x)=6x the process is diriving, instead of differentiating.

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    $\begingroup$ Please correct your writing. $\endgroup$ – Siméon Oct 7 '13 at 7:58
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to M.SE. While we appreciate you answering old questions, you should take care to apply, at minimum, the English grammatical and spelling quality of the original poster. This post of yours is quite frankly atrocious and does not really constitute a scholarly response in its current form. With some effort on your part however, I suspect it could be salvaged, but I would have to see that effect to be sure. $\endgroup$ – J. W. Perry Oct 7 '13 at 8:06

You derive the differential of a function through differentiation. The starting function is differentiated; the solution is derived.

  • $\begingroup$ This is a comment not and answer $\endgroup$ – Guy Fsone Sep 30 '17 at 11:29
  • $\begingroup$ It's an answer but unnecessary and doesn't add anything to the answers from six years ago. $\endgroup$ – Mark S. Sep 30 '17 at 11:35
  • $\begingroup$ Correct usage of 'derive' was not explained in Dan Drake's answer; smackcrane's response was a link, not an answer, and; user99307's answer was difficult to understand because of its poor grammar. $\endgroup$ – DMc Sep 30 '17 at 12:04

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