1. Are these definitions correct?

(13th, from Latin assūmptiō, the act of taking up, from Latin assūmere, which is ... to assume).

A little on etymology: the word “assumption” comes from the Latin “assumptio” which means “a taking up” or “receiving” which refers to the Virgin Mary being taken up to heaven.

  1. I always thought that ad- (prefix) meant SOLELY "to", and sup- meant SOLELY "up"! If assūmptiō = 'take up', then does ad- ALSO mean "up" (+ its other meanings like 'to')?

  2. If so, why did ad- mean both 'to' + 'up', when sup- already meant "up"?

  • If you assume that any prefix in Latin (or, probably, any other language) means solely this or that, you are going to be disappointed. Languages are not designed: they just happen.
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 3, 2022 at 19:13

1 Answer 1


Latin prefixes have no precisely defined meanings. But in any event, both sumere and assumere (= adsumere) can mean “to take up,” but on the other hand, in neither case is the idea of an upward movement particularly pronounced.

Here is the basic meaning of sumere, as defined by Lewis & Short:

to take, take up, lay hold of, assume (syn. capio)

And assumere:

to take to or with one's self, to take up, receive, adopt, accept, take

Note that even in English “take up,” the word “up” often does not refer to a discernible upward movement, and instead its meaning is also more akin to “toward the actor”; e.g. when you “take up basketball” or a sofa “takes up half the living room,” etc. The same is true for “pick up,” for example.

Likewise, what the prefix ad- in assumere confers is perhaps better described as “toward oneself,” although taking something to oneself is pretty much the meaning of plain sumere anyway, so the prefix adds little concrete meaning, and the two words are very similar. This is not unusual in Latin.

Of course, with the Assumptio Beatae Mariae Virginis, we know she goes up, because the Virgin Mary is taken to Heaven, and although I guess theologians would quickly assure us that Heaven has no physical location in our three-dimensional coordinate system, it is still widely considered to be, in whatever sense that may be, up.

  • Latin prefixes? What about "ir-" = "in-" on verb, "irrideo", e.g. "nisi mihi irisisset, forsitan ei ignossem." = "If he had not mocked me, I might have forgiven him.", in latin.stackexchange.com/a/13073/1982? This directional prefix (See the comments from Mitomino.) not only focuses (the ridicule--the direct object) it requires a dative indirect-object ("mihi"--the ridicule is directed to me); unlike parent verb, "rideo", which selects the expected accusative direct-object. What a prefix! How can you be so dismissive?
    – tony
    Aug 4, 2022 at 7:51
  • @tony I do not understand what part of my answer you take issue with. Irridere takes accusative objects all the time, by the way, as any dictionary should tell you. Aug 4, 2022 at 17:13
  • It was, "Latin prefixes have no precisely defined meanings.", that seemed over-dismissive. In 2019 I sweated blood in order to determine why "irrideo" was selecting dative, "mihi", instead of the expected accusative, "me". In examples of "irrideo" + accusative (Lewis & Short) it could just be written as parent verb, "rideo", couldn't it? This illogical approach to the application of prefixes may explain your own lack of faith in these things. In which case your introduction was a fair one. Voting-up the answer to +7.
    – tony
    Aug 5, 2022 at 9:42

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