An ELT Glossary : Free morphemes

  • Definition : A free morpheme is a morpheme (the smallest part of a word which carries meaning) which can exist in isolation, functioning as a single word.

  • Examples : The words friend or step.

  • Free morphemes can combine with other free morphemes to form compound words (footstep, handcuffs, wheelchair, newspaper) and can also combine with bound morphemes (morphemes which cannot exist independently of a free morpheme)- eg unfriendly  to change meaning and/or word class.

Further reading 

McCarthy, M. 1990, Vocabulary, OUP