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a-4 pref. of negation and privation, repr. Gr. a- (before a vowel AN-2) = UN-1. Occurs in (i) words repr. Gr. comps., mostly via F. or L., and in which the significance of the pref. is wholly or partially obscured, as abyss, adamant, amethyst, atom; (ii) terms of the arts and sciences, having Gr. bases, but coming mainly through late, med., or modL., as aseptic, athematic; (iii) such terms derived from other bases, as asexual; (iv) gen. terms modelled on these, as amoral, asocial.

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a-1 reduced form of ON prep. (in late OE., but not gen. before XII); the first el. of many predicative adjs. and advs. consisting of the prep. and a sb., e.g. aback, alive, asleep, away; early ME. are afire, afoot; later aflame, ashore. Some depend upon French, as aboard, across, around, in which the preps. à, en have been assim. to or replaced by the Eng. prefix. From XVI combined with a vb.-stem as in adrift, astride.

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a-2 reduced form of OF prep., as in afresh, akin, anew. Cf. †a clock (XV–XVIII), now O'CLOCK. Not in living use since ME. In comps. with vbs. the pref. of- is repr. in e.g. athirst.

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a-3 pref. of vbs., OE. ā-, orig. ar-, or- = OHG. ar-, ir-, ur- (G. er-), Goth. us-, ur-, meaning ‘away, out’, and hence used as an intensive, as in abide, ago, arise, ashamed.

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a- (an-) prefix denoting absence of; lacking; not.

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