Ante- or anti-?

The best way to remember which of these two spellings to use is to make sure you understand the meaning of the word you have in mind.

Words beginning with ante-

  • When the meaning is ‘before’ or ‘in front of’, you need to use ante-. It comes from the Latin word ante which has the same meaning. Ante- is used to form words like antenatal (= before birth) and antechamber (= a small room leading to a bigger one). There aren't very many ‘ante-’ words in general use. Here's a list of the most common ones – note that none of them are hyphenated:

antebellum

antedate

antenatal

antecedent

antediluvian

antepenultimate

antechamber

antemortem

anteroom

Words beginning with anti-

  • When the meaning is ‘against’ or ‘preventing’, you need to use anti-, which comes from the Greek word anti. It's used to form words such as antifreeze (= a substance that prevents water from freezing) or antidepressant (= a drug used to relieve depression).
  • Words which begin with anti- are sometimes hyphenated, typically when the word following anti- begins with a vowel (e.g. anti-aircraft, anti-inflammatory) and always when the base word begins with a capital letter (e.g., anti-American). See more about using hyphens.
  • There are lots more words beginning with anti- than those that begin with ante-. Some of the most common are:

anti-abortion

anticlockwise

anti-hero

antioxidant

anti-aircraft

anticyclone

antihistamine

antipathy

antibacterial

antidepressant

anti-inflammatory

antiperspirant

antibiotic

antidote

antimalarial

anti-Semitism

antibody

antifreeze

antimatter

antiseptic

anticlimax

antigen

anti-nuclear

antisocial

 


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Grammar and usage