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Privative a

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Title: Privative a  
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Subject: A-, Ateleia (ancient Greece), Alexithymia, Non-abidance, Aletheia
Collection: Greek Language, Indo-European Linguistics
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Privative a

In Ancient Greek grammar, privative a (also known as privative alpha; in Latin, α prīvātīvum, in Greek, α στερητικόν) is the prefix a- that expresses negation or absence (e.g. a-theos, a-typical). It is derived from a Proto-Indo-European syllabic nasal *n̥-, the zero ablaut grade of the negation *ne, i.e. /n/ used as a vowel. For this reason, it appears as an- before vowels (e.g. an-alphabetism, an-esthesia, an-archy).[1] It shares the same root with the Greek prefix or ne, in Greek νη or νε, that is also privative (e.g. ne-penthe).[2]


  • Cognates 1
    • Sanskrit 1.1
    • Latin 1.2
    • Germanic languages 1.3
  • Homonym 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4



The same prefix appears in Sanskrit, also as a-, an-


In Latin, the cognate prefix is in-. The prepositional prefix in- is different.

Germanic languages

In English and other West Germanic languages, the cognate is un-, except in Dutch, where it is on-.

In North Germanic languages, the -n- has disappeared and Old Norse has ú- (e.g. ú-dáins-akr), Danish and Norwegian have u-, whereas Swedish uses o- (pronounced [u]), and Icelandic and Faroese use the related ó-.


The prefix ἁ- ha- (also ἀ- a- from psilosis), copulative a, is nearly homonymous with privative a, but originates from Proto-Indo-European *sm̥.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b . Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  2. ^ νη. Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project

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