- a reduced form of the Old English preposition on, meaning “on,” “in,” “into,” “to,” “toward,” preserved before a noun in a prepositional phrase, forming a predicate adjective or an adverbial element (afoot; abed; ashore; aside; away), or before an adjective (afar; aloud; alow), as a moribund prefix with a verb (acknowledge), and in archaic and dialectal use before a present participle in -ing (set the bells aringing); and added to a verb stem with the force of a present participle (ablaze; agape; aglow; astride; and originally, awry).
Origin of a-1
- a reduced form of the Old English preposition of: akin; afresh; anew.
Origin of a-2
- an old point-action prefix, not referring to an act as a whole, but only to the beginning or end: She arose (rose up). They abided by their beliefs (remained faithful to the end).
Origin of a-3
- variant of ab- before p and v: aperient; avert.
Origin of a-4
- variant of ad-, used: (1) before sc, sp, st (ascend) and (2) in words of French derivation (often with the sense of increase, addition): amass.
Origin of a-5
- variant of an-1 before a consonant, meaning “not,” “without”: amoral; atonal; achromatic.
- atomic (used in combination): A-bomb; A-plant.
before a vowel an-
- not; without; opposite toatonal; asocial
- on; in; towardsafoot; abed; aground; aback
- literary, or archaic (used before a present participle) in the act or process ofcome a-running; go a-hunting
- in the condition or state ofafloat; alive; asleep
Word Origin and History for a-
in native (derived from Old English) words, it most commonly represents Old English an "on" (see a (2)), as in alive, asleep, abroad, afoot, etc., forming adjectives and adverbs from nouns; but it also can be Middle English of, as in anew, abreast (1590s); or a reduced form of Old English past participle prefix ge-, as in aware; or the Old English intensive a-, as in arise, awake, ashame, marking a verb as momentary, a single event. In words from Romanic languages, often it represents Latin ad- "to, at."
[I]t naturally happened that all these a- prefixes were at length confusedly lumped together in idea, and the resultant a- looked upon as vaguely intensive, rhetorical, euphonic, or even archaic, and wholly otiose. [OED]
prefix meaning "not," from Latin a-, short for ab "away from" (e.g. avert), or its cognate, Greek a-, short for apo "away from, from," both cognate with Sanskrit apa "away from," Gothic af, Old English of (see apo-).
prefix meaning "not," from Greek a-, an- "not," from PIE root *ne "not" (see un-).
- Without; not:acellular.
- A prefix meaning without or not when forming an adjective (such as amorphous, without form, or atypical, not typical), and absence of when forming a noun (such as arrhythmia, absence of rhythm). Before a vowel or h it becomes an- (as in anhydrous, anoxia).