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1610s, "discussion, debate," from Latin dissertationem (nominative dissertatio ) "discourse," noun of action from past participle stem of dissertare "debate, argue, examine, harangue," frequentative of disserere "discuss, examine," from dis- "apart" (see dis- ) + serere "to arrange words" (see series ). Sense of "formal, written treatise" is 1650s.
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