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Attested since 1880. Learned borrowing from Ancient Greek ἄφεσις (áphesis, “letting go”), from ἀφίημι (aphíēmi), from ἀπό (apó, “off”) + ἵημι (híēmi, “send forth”).
aphesis (countable and uncountable, plural apheses)
- (linguistics, prosody) The loss of the initial unstressed vowel of a word.
- The word "scarp" is derived from "escarp" by aphesis.
loss of the initial unstressed vowel of a word
- ^ James Murray (1881), “Dictionary wants: Terms wanted”, in Transactions of the Philological Society 1880-1881, Oxford, page 175:
- One of the commonest phenomena in the history of English words is the dropping of an initial toneless vowel usually a- e- or i-. Thus a-down has become down, a-mend mend, a-round round, attire tire, alarum larum, alembic limbeck, alone lone, estate state, esquire squire, estop stop, escape scape, elumine limn, imong mong(er), iwork work, iclept clept, and thus poets still make above ’bove, against ’gainst, among ’mong. We want a name for this phonetic phenomenon, and especially a descriptive adjective for these shortened forms, indicating the way in which the initial toneless vowel is as it were “let go.” The Editor can think of nothing better than to call the phenomenon Aphesis (from Gr. ἀφίημι), and the resulting forms Aphetic forms. He will be glad if any one can suggest anything better, as the terms are required on almost every page of the Dictionary.
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