Know these essential literary terms?
indefinite article, mid-12c., a variation of Old English an (see an) in which the -n- began to disappear before consonants, a process mostly complete by mid-14c. The -n- also was retained before words beginning with a sounded -h- until c.1600; it still is retained by many writers before unaccented syllables in h- or (e)u-, but is now no longer normally spoken as such. The -n- also lingered (especially in southern England dialect) before -w- and -y- through 15c.
as in twice a day, etc., from Old English an "on," in this case "on each." The sense was extended from time to measure, price, place, etc. The habit of tacking a onto a gerund (as in a-hunting we will go) died out 18c.
in native (derived from Old English) words, it most commonly represents Old English an "on" (see a (2)), as in alive, asleep, abroad, afoot, etc., forming adjectives and adverbs from nouns; but it also can be Middle English of, as in anew, abreast (1590s); or a reduced form of Old English past participle prefix ge-, as in aware; or the Old English intensive a-, as in arise, awake, ashame, marking a verb as momentary, a single event. In words from Romanic languages, often it represents Latin ad- "to, at."
[I]t naturally happened that all these a- prefixes were at length confusedly lumped together in idea, and the resultant a- looked upon as vaguely intensive, rhetorical, euphonic, or even archaic, and wholly otiose. [OED]
prefix meaning "not," from Latin a-, short for ab "away from" (e.g. avert), or its cognate, Greek a-, short for apo "away from, from," both cognate with Sanskrit apa "away from," Gothic af, Old English of (see apo-).
prefix meaning "not," from Greek a-, an- "not," from PIE root *ne "not" (see un-).
c.1300, from Latin alpha, from Greek alpha, from Hebrew or Phoenician aleph (see aleph). The Greeks added -a because Greek words cannot end in most consonants. Sense of "beginning of anything" is from late 14c., often paired with omega (last letter in the Greek alphabet) as "the end." Sense of "first in a sequence" is from 1620s. Alpha male was in use by c.1960 among scientists studying animals; applied to humans in society from c.1992.
specific absorption coefficient (often italic)
systemic arterial blood (used as a subscript)
absorbance (often italic)
alveolar gas (used as a subscript)
AMP (in polynucleotides)
a- or an-
Without; not: acellular.
alpha al·pha (āl'fə)
Symbol α The first letter of the Greek alphabet.
The first one in a series; the beginning.
The first position from a designated carbon atom in an organic molecule at which an atom or radical group may be substituted.
Characterizing the atom or radical group that is closest to the functional group of atoms in an organic molecule.
Relating to one of two or more closely related substances, as in stereoisomers.
Relating to or characterizing a polypeptide chain that is one of five types of heavy chains present in immunoglobins.
Abbreviation of adenine, ampere, angstrom, area
Abbreviation of angstrom
A prefix meaning "without" or "not" when forming an adjective (such as amorphous, without form, or atypical, not typical), and "absence of" when forming a noun (such as arrhythmia, absence of rhythm). Before a vowel or h it becomes an- (as in anhydrous, anoxia).
Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet, as Omega is the last. These letters occur in the text of Rev. 1:8,11; 21:6; 22:13, and are represented by "Alpha" and "Omega" respectively (omitted in R.V., 1:11). They mean "the first and last." (Comp. Heb. 12:2; Isa. 41:4; 44:6; Rev. 1:11,17; 2:8.) In the symbols of the early Christian Church these two letters are frequently combined with the cross or with Christ's monogram to denote his divinity.