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Sometimes I've seen ド as a prefix that adds emphasis to words. So saying someone is ドバカ is saying that they are much more stupid than just バカ.

I'm wondering what the origin of ド in this context is. Does it come from 度 【ど】("degree"), as in, "the degree of X is higher"?

Also, is it always negative? I usually see it attached to negative terms, but I don't know if it's exclusively negative.

Lastly, is it impolite?

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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

In present Japanese, the usage is not limited to negative terms

ど真ん中 'right in the middle', 'bingo!'
ど根性 'strong guts'

but does not seem to be productive either (i.e., usage is limited). When it is used with a negative term, that is surely impolite, but the words listed above are not particularly impolite.

seems to have derived from the 18th century form どう, whose meaning is not clear. There is another descendant form どん, which developed mainly in the context of kabuki (歌舞伎), and seems to be used only for negative terms.

どん引き [Recent slang]

Here are some discussions on other sites:

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Don't know if it's always from the kanji 度 or not. However, of the few examples I found, there was ど真ん中 (straight down the middle), so there is at least one situation where it's not negative.

And here's the definition in the Mac OSX dictionary (whatever dictionary that is):

1 まさにそれに相当するものであることを強調する。「—真ん中」「—ぎつい」
2 ののしり卑しめる意をより強く表す。「—けち」「—下手」

So based on this, I would say that words themselves are not impolite, just maybe how you use it.

A common one I use is 度忘れする (this one I know for sure uses 度) meaning "to slip your mind" or "momentarily cannot recall". I don't see any way this in itself could be impolite.

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To give credit where credit is due, the dictionary bundled with OS X is Shougakukan's Daijisen. It's a shame many people don't even realize it's there. –  Oren Ronen Jul 31 '11 at 6:44
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