- A- A-
A, as a prefix to English words, is derived from various
sources. (1) It frequently signifies on or in (from an, a
forms of AS. on), denoting a state, as in afoot, on foot,
abed, amiss, asleep, aground, aloft, away (AS. onweg), and
analogically, ablaze, atremble, etc. (2) AS. of off, from, as
in adown (AS. ofd[=u]ne off the dun or hill). (3) AS. [=a]-
(Goth. us-, ur-, Ger. er-), usually giving an intensive
force, and sometimes the sense of away, on, back, as in
arise, abide, ago.
(4) Old English y- or i- (corrupted from
the AS. inseparable particle ge-, cognate with OHG. ga-, gi-,
Goth. ga-), which, as a prefix, made no essential addition to
the meaning, as in aware. (5) French [`a] (L. ad to), as in
abase, achieve. (6) L. a, ab, abs, from, as in avert. (7)
Greek insep. prefix [alpha] without, or privative, not, as in
abyss, atheist; akin to E. un-.
Note: Besides these, there are other sources from which the prefix a takes its origin. [1913 Webster]
The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.