This morning my necklace was tangled and I asked my husband to help me untangle it. Well, you know Shu. That suddenly got him thinking, what is the difference between untangle, disentangle and detangle. When I look them up, untangle and disentangle seem to be synonyms, but detangle seems to mean to remove snarls from your hair. Thought?
Funny I just spent an hour yesterday trying to find a comb with very widely-spaced tines (no luck), & that word detangle was suggested many times.
I did find a suggestion on dictionary.com that it's a synonym for untangle. When I checked etymology, etymonline did not have the word. But this forum discussion quotes an OED etymology referencing hairdressing, first seen in 1979.
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Yes, OneLook lists only two dictionaries that define detangle: Oxford Dictionaries ("Remove tangles from (hair).") and Dictionary.com ("to remove tangles, untangle"). The OED Online defines it as "To remove tangles from (hair)," and the first citation is from 1979: "Five attachments that style, shape and detangle the hair." That citation is also in bethree5's link.
It appears to me that this is a word invented by the hair products industry. They apparently didn't want to use untangle,disentangle or unsnarl). Rather, it seems they wanted a word all their own that refers specifically to hair (though the Dictionary.com definition doesn't so specify}.
Yes, I checked OED, and it does cite it from 1979. I am skeptical, however. It seems older than that. I know when Shu has worked for OED to find original citations, he has found that often they don't have the earliest cite.