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Title: Aphesis  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Rhetoric, Clipping (phonetics), Aphetic
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Sound change and alternation

In phonetics, apheresis (/əˈfɛrɨsɪs/ or /əˈfɪərɨsɪs/; British English: aphaeresis; from Greek apo away, hairein to take) is the loss of one or more sounds from the beginning of a word, especially the loss of an unstressed vowel.

Apheresis as a historical sound change

In historical phonetics, the term "apheresis" is often but not always limited to the loss of an unstressed vowel. (The Oxford English Dictionary gives this particular kind of apheresis the name aphesis /ˈæfɨsɪs/.)

The loss of any sound

The loss of an unstressed vowel

  • Greek episkopos > Vulgar Latin [e]biscopu > English bishop
  • English [a]cute > cute
  • English [E]gyptian > Gyptian > Gypsy[1]
  • English [a]mend > mend
  • English [e]scape + goat > scapegoat[2]
  • Old French evaniss > English vanish
  • Old French estable > English stable
  • Old French estrange > English strange
  • English esquire > squire
  • Akkadian Ashuraya > Shuraya

Aphaeresis as a poetic device

  • English it is > poetic ’tis
  • English upon > ’pon

Aphaeresis in informal speech

  • Portuguese está > stá or tá[?] ("is" and "yes/ok./, ins't?/, aren't?" for the second contracted form)
  • English oath God's truth > Familiar Australian English exclamation strewth

See also




  • Crowley, Terry. (1997) An Introduction to Historical Linguistics. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press.
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