I was reading prefixes in essential words for Tofel
but in some words, I don't see the relation between the prefix and the created word meaning.
for example:

  • anterior made with the prefix ante means before and rior(which I don't know what is it)

  • anticipate made with the prefix anti means against and the cipate (which I searched it and it says it would mean to take)

  • biased made with the prefix bi means two and as(which I don't know the meaning )

and many other words.
in these examples, I don't see any relation between the prefix meaning and the created word meaning, so my question is: how does a prefix related to the meaning of the created word? is there something that I am missing? in the other word

  • Can you reword this: "my question is how does a prefix related to the meaning of the created word ? " It's not clear what are you asking.
    – Jan
    Mar 3, 2020 at 17:16
  • @Jan I added some more explanation before the question, I wish it makes it more clear Mar 3, 2020 at 17:22

2 Answers 2


The answer is "unpredictably".

Some prefixes have fairly clear, well-defined meanings; others have a wider range of meanings.

More significantly for English, some prefixes have been added to words in English, and these often have a straightforward meaning; but many words that are derived from Latin or Greek already had the prefix before they were borrowed, and their meaning altered, either within the Classical language, or since they were borrowed into English.

This is a part of a more general principle that parts of a word (and the origins of a word) may give you clues about the meaning, and help you remember it, but they don't reliably tell you what it means.


You are asking about morphemes, in particular cranberry morphemes.

Wikipedia morpheme:

A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in a language. A morpheme is not identical to a word.

The word "cranberry" contains two morphemes, "berry" which means "berry" and "cran" which means nothing outside of the word "cranberry".

Wikipedia cranberry morpheme:

In linguistic morphology, a cranberry morpheme (or fossilized term) is a type of bound morpheme that cannot be assigned an independent meaning or grammatical function, but nonetheless serves to distinguish one word from another.

The etymology of "bias" is ultimately uncertain, but it is thought to come from an unattested Latin word "biaxius" meaning "with two axes". If this is correct, it had two meaningful morphemes in Latin, but now in English it is viewed as a single morpheme. If it had two morphemes, they would be "bi-" (two) and "as" (no separate meaning).

The word anterior is from Latin anterior, comparative of "ante" (forward, before), i.e. "more forward", *"forwarder". The morphemes are "ante" and "-(e)rior" (comparative), see "posterior". Latin "-(e)rior" is like English "-er".

As you already found out, "anticipate" is from Latin "anticipatus", perfect passive participle of "anticipare" (anticipate); from "ante" (before), + "capere" (take). Only "anti-" has retained its meaning as a productive morpheme. "cipate" has no meaning outside of "anticipate".

All of your examples come from Latin (most likely). Look up the etymology of any further words you want to know about. The number of morphemes in each word don't have to stay the same over time, especially when they cross languages. Meanings can also change hugely over time. It's now hard to see how "bias" possibly came from a word meaning "two axes" (plural of "axis" not "axe").

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