Quick Summary

Prefixes are key morphemes in English vocabulary that begin words. The English prefix ante-, which means “before,” appears in a fair number of English vocabulary words, such as antebellum and antedate. You can remember that the prefix ante- means “before” from the poker term ante, which means to put money into the pot “before” each round of the poker game begins.

Ante Up Before You Play!

Today we will focus on the English prefix ante-, which means “before.” “Before” we end, we’ll ante up some English derivatives by focusing on the following words in order to have a full understanding of this important prefix.

A term from the card game poker will be most helpful in remembering that the prefix ante- means “before.” “Before” each round of a poker game, the dealer tells each player to put in her ante first, or to ante up, which means to contribute a predetermined amount of money into the pot to seed it “before” that round begins. The ante strikes up interest in the game “before” it begins, since all the poker players want that money!

Rooms in large homes and edifices that go “before” other rooms often use the prefix ante-, “before.” For instance, an anteroom, more commonly known as a waiting room, is that room one sits in at the doctor’s office “before” going into the main part of the office. An antechamber is synonymous to an anteroom, again a smaller room that is “before” a larger room, often seen in large homes. In a church, an antechoir is that part of the church that is “before” the choir, which is usually closed off and reserved for either the clergy or the choir members, or both.

The word antebellum, which means “before” the war, usually refers to the time right “before” the start of the American Civil War. Soldiers did not know when or if they would die in this bloody conflict, so before battles many would engage in antemortem activities, or those things done “before” impending death. Some of these bloody battles would begin at dawn, or in the a.m., which is Latin for ante meridiem: “before” noon or midday.

Speaking of epic events, many cultures had a story about a Great Flood that destroyed the Earth; the biblical version with Noah and his ark is the most famous of these. The time “before” that Great Flood is referred to as antediluvian, which can also refer to something which is very old or old-fashioned. It is hard to imagine a time that antedates, or is dated “before” that catastrophic event, especially the time right “before” it was to begin!

The Penultimate Peril was the 12th or “second to last” book of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, which ended with the 13th book, entitled simply The End. Mr. Snicket could have named the third to last book The Antepenultimate Activity, or the book “before” the second to last book, but instead he named it The Grim Grotto. Imagine the trend: The Preantepenultimate Presumption instead of The Slippery Slope, The Supraantepenultimate Snicket Snapshot instead of The Carnivorous Carnival, etc.

Enough anteing up of ante derivatives! You can now have the utmost confidence in your knowledge of what words mean with the prefix ante- in them “before” you even see them!

  1. ante: to stake money “before” a poker game begins
  2. anteroom: a waiting room “before” a larger room
  3. antechamber: a smaller room “before” a larger room
  4. antechoir: the section in a church “before” the choir
  5. antebellum: of a period “before” the American Civil War
  6. antemortem: of the period “before” death
  7. ante meridiem: Latin for “before” midday or noon
  8. antediluvian: of “before” the Great Flood
  9. antedate: to date “before” another event in time
  10. antepenultimate: “before” the second to last in a series


  • antediluvian

    Something antediluvian is so old or old-fashioned that it seems to belong to a much earlier period in history.

  • antecedent

    An antecedent of something, such as an event or organization, has happened or existed before it and can be similar to it.

  • ancient

    Something which is ancient is very old or belongs to the distant past.

  • ancestor

    An ancestor is someone who came before you in your family, such as your great-grandmother or great-grandfather.

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