Monday, June 02, 2008

A is for Anti- but also Ante-

Another one of those building blocks that we use to form words in English is the prefix "anti-". I think most of us know that it means opposite or against. We have many examples: antiaging, antidisestablishmentarianism (sorry, couldn't resist!), antifreeze, anti-inflammatory, antipathy, antipodes (we'll explore this one later), and many more.
There's a second ante-, usually pronounced the same as the first anti-, but its meaning is entirely different. Ante- means "prior to, earlier, in front of , before." Some examples:

antebellum——before the war
antecedent——something that goes before
antediluvian——before the flood
ante meridian——before noon (A.M.)
antemortem——preceding death
antenatal ——before birth
antepenultimate——before the next to the last

Note: Although the anti-/ante- difference usually holds, there are a very few cases in which the before (i.e. ante-) prefix becomes anti- in English, for example anticipate and antipasto (which is not "against the meal" but "before the meal"). I used to think antipasto meant before the pasta, and I always wondered why the "a" in pasta was changed to an "o" in antipasto. It turns out that the pasto root means meal or food. Of course, the first course of an Italian meal often consists of pasta, so technically I guess antipasto is before the pasta, too! Excellent. Mangia! Mangia!

Orig: 6/2/08

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

Do you know, somewhere in the deep dark cavities of my brain, I have wondered for a long time why some things with anti/ante were before rather than against and vice versa ! I guess I never could make it enough of a conscious thought to verbalize but reading this post has put this wondering to rest !!! Fantastic !! I am so loving this series you are doing ! I am learning lots !! You always have been a fantastic teacher ! If only there had been blogs when I was in high school and we could have done my homework through them !! ha ha. Because, back then ... I was not so willing a pupil !! :) Love you ! Bon