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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. isn't a 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. $\endgroup$ – Koro Nov 15 '15 at 0:04
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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
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Here is an illuminating xkcd forum thread on the topic. People (myself included) seem to agree that the word 'derive' is incorrect.

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