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In phonology, apocope (/əˈpɒkəpi/[1][2]) is the loss (elision) of a word-final vowel. In a broader sense, the term can refer to the loss of any final sound (including consonants) from a word.[3]

Academic linguists term the resultant word-form (following the operation of apocope) an apocopation.


Apocope comes from the Greek ἀποκοπή (apokopḗ) from ἀποκόπτειν (apokóptein) "cutting off", from ἀπο- (apo-) "away from" and κόπτειν (kóptein) "to cut".

Historical sound change[edit]

In historical linguistics, apocope is often the loss of an unstressed vowel.

Loss of an unstressed vowel or vowel and nasal[edit]

  • Latin mare → Portuguese mar (sea)
  • Vulgar Latin panem → Spanish pan (bread)
  • Vulgar Latin lupum → French loup (wolf)
  • Proto-Germanic *landąOld, Middle, and Modern English land
  • Old English lufu → Modern English love (noun)
  • Old English lufian → Modern English love (verb)
  • The loss of a final unstressed vowel is a feature of southern dialects of Māori in comparison to standard Māori, for example the term kainga (village) is rendered in southern Māori as kaik. A similar feature is seen in the Gallo-Italic languages.

Loss of other sounds[edit]

Case marker[edit]

In Estonian and the Sami languages, apocopes explain the forms of grammatical cases. For example, a nominative is described as having apocope of the final vowel, but the genitive does not have it. Throughout its history, however, the genitive case marker has also undergone apocope: Estonian linn ("a city") and linna ("of a city") are derived from linna and linnan respectively, as can still be seen in the corresponding Finnish word.

In the genitive form, the final /n/, while it was being deleted, blocked the loss of /a/. In Colloquial Finnish, the final vowel is sometimes omitted from case markers.

Grammatical rule[edit]

Some languages have apocopations that are internalized as mandatory forms. In Spanish and Italian, for example, some adjectives that come before the noun lose the final vowel or syllable if they precede a noun (mainly) in the masculine singular form. In Spanish, some adverbs and cardinal and ordinal numbers have apocopations as well.

  • Adjectives
    • grande ("big, great") → grangran mujer (feminine) ("great woman". However, if the adjective follows the noun, the final syllable remains, but the meaning may also change: mujer grande, meaning "large woman")
    • bueno ("good") → buenbuen hombre (masculine) ("good man"; the final vowel remains in hombre bueno, with no accompanying change in meaning)
  • Adverbs
    • tanto ("so much") → tan ("so") → tan hermoso ("so beautiful")
  • Cardinal numbers
  • Ordinal numbers
    • primero ("first") → primerprimer premio ("first prize")
    • tercero ("third") → tercertercer lugar ("third place")
    • postrero ("final") → postrerpostrer día ("final day")

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Apocope". Oxford Dictionaries UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press.[dead link]
  2. ^ "Apocope". Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  3. ^ Campbell, Lyle (2007). Glossary of Historical Linguistics. Edinburgh University Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-7486-3019-6.
  • Crowley, Terry. (1997) An Introduction to Historical Linguistics. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press.

External links[edit]