Privative a

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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 usually 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]



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[edit]

In English and other West Germanic languages, the cognate is un- (or 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[edit]