a-, ab-, abs-

(Latin: prefix; from, away, away from)


This prefix is normally used with elements of Latin and French origins (abs- usually joins elements beginning with c, q, or t).

The form ab- is regularly used before all vowels and h; and it becomes a- before the consonants m, p, and v. The prefix apo- has similar meanings.

This list is a very small sample of the multitudes of a-, ab-, abs- prefixes that are available in dictionaries and those in this unit are only meant to present a few examples.



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abjection (s) (noun), abjections (pl)
1. A low or downcast state, the act of being humiliating: The abjection of poverty made it difficult for Eileen to raise her children and send them to school.
2. A condition of being servile, wretched, or contemptible: In school, the students studied the various abjections of human situations and learned strategies that would help them to avoid miserable lives in the future.
abjectly (adverb), more abjectly, most abjectly
1. With great shame, desperately: Too many people in the world remain abjectly poor.

Jeffrey sighed and abjectly walked away after being exposed as a swindler.

2. In a hopeless resigned manner: Joshua abjectly shrugged his shoulders when his wife started another session of complaining.
A low condition as abject poverty.
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abjectness (s) (noun)
1. A condition in which a person is down in spirit or hope; miserable: Jack's abjectness was caused by the fact that he had been walking all day at the book fair and his feet were hurting.
2. Submissive or fawning in attitude or behavior: Terri's abjectness revealed that she was so servile and overly willing to serve or to obey other people that no one respected her.
abjure (ab JOOR) (verb), abjures; abjured; abjuring
1. To renounce, repudiate, reject, or to give up rights or allegiance on oath: Kevin said he would abjure his citizenship if his country continued with its policies of war instead of negotiating peaceful solutions to international problems.

As their father, Tyrone felt it was necessary to abjure the habits of his children's excessive eating and sitting around playing computer games all the time instead of exercising.

Pacifism abjures the use of deadly force.

2. To withdraw from or to recant publicly; to disclaim or to repudiate: Douglas abjured his life of bad eating and drinking habits when he determined to stop eating so much fried foods.

Some of the prisoners abjured their past criminal acts during the religious service held in the prison on Sunday.

3. To formally reject rights, allegiances, etc. on oath; to renounce; to give up opinions publicly; to recant: The school principal wanted to be sure that Mildred abjured her false story about being tardy because her bus was late before she would be allowed to return to school.
4. To beg or to earnestly entreat: Right after the final decision as to the prisoner's guilt, he started to abjure the judge for mercy.

Henry was abjuring his supervisor to give him another chance to complete the job which he failed to do on time.

5. Etymology: from Latin abjurare, "to swear to, to confirm, or to deny by an oath"; from ab-, "away" + jurare, "to swear"; from jus, juris, "law".
To repudiate or to renounce by oath not to do something.
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To give up an activity on oath.
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abjurer (s) (noun), abjurers (pl)
1. Someone who formally rejects or disavows a formerly held belief, usually under pressure: Joan became an abjurer when she was forced by a Medieval court of inquiry to give up her religious beliefs.
2. Anyone who implies a firm and final rejecting or abandoning of a former belief or position, often made under oath: The two abjurers, Steven and Edward, met with the media to explain their joint decision to abandon their previously held political commitments.
ablactation (s) (noun), ablactations (pl)
The weaning of a child from nursing or the cessation of milk secretion: There was an ablactation or substitution of other food for Joan's milk in the diet of her baby.

The nurse provided an educational booklet to the new mothers about the ablactation of infants.

There is considerable research in the area of ablactation which makes available appropriate information for the nourishment of human infants and other young of mammals.

ablate (verb), ablates; ablated; ablating
1. To remove or dissipate by melting, vaporization, erosion, etc.: The worker was ablating the metal surface with intense heat.

It would appear that the icebergs are ablating faster than scientists had anticipated.

After a heavy rain, the top soil ablates from the field and runs off into the stream.

2. In medicine, to amputate or otherwise to destroy a biological function; for example, of a bodily tissue by cutting, with a laser, or by means of burning with electric heat: The doctor ablated the abnormal number of warts that had formed on Colleen's body with electrocautery.

The doctor indicated that she would ablate the lump from Tanya's leg.

After Patrick's crushed foot was ablated in an accident, he learned to walk and to run with a prosthetic foot and shoe.

ablation (s) (noun), ablations (pl)
1. Surgical excisions, removals, or amputations of body parts or tissues: The doctor specialized in the ablation of tumors on the lungs.
2. The erosive processes by which a glacier is reduced; wearing or wasting away: Melting and the breaking off of a mass of ice from its parent glacier or ice shelf are ablations that icebergs undergo during the summer months.
3. In aerospace, the dissipation of heat generated by atmospheric friction: There are ablations in atmospheric reentries of spacecrafts or missiles with the use of melting heat shields.
ablative (adjective), more ablative, most ablative
1. A reference to taking away or removing: The city trash department was charged with the ablative task of clearing the streets after the severe storm.
2. Tending to be removed or vaporized at very high temperatures: The ablative material on the rocket cone fell off.
3. In grammar, applied to one of the cases of the noun in Latin and some other Indo-European languages: The ablative case is the removal, separation, or taking away; that is, indicating direction away from, or time when.

Grammatical "cases" are changes in form that are made of nouns or pronouns to reflect how they are used in sentences. For example, the noun "men" is changed to "men's" and the noun "woman" is changed to "women's" to show possession. Nouns in English once had several case forms, but the only one used today is the possessive case.

Pronouns continue to change case forms to show their relations to the rest of the elements in a sentence. The three cases of pronouns are "nominative", "objective", and "possessive" cases.

ablative case (s) (noun), ablative cases (pl)
A grammatical case used in some languages to indicate movement away from something, removal of, separation from, or source of: The ablative case corresponds roughly to the English prepositions "from", "away from", and "concerning".

Raymond's sister had to memorize lists of ablative cases when she was studying a foreign language at school.

All of the ablative cases which the author used made the story interesting but a bit convoluted.

Examples of Grammatical Cases

Nouns and pronouns can be subjects, objects, or possessives and many pronouns and a few nouns show these various uses:

  • Nominative Cases: I, we, him, she, it, who
  • Objective Cases: me, us, him, them, her, whom
  • Possessives: our, my, mine, their, theirs, his, its

The nominative case shows that the noun or pronoun is being used as the subject of the verb: "The students learned about subjects in the English class and they usually know that verbs show what the subjects are doing."

The objective case indicates that the noun or pronoun is functioning as:

  • Object of the verb: "Jessica's complimentary remarks about Mike's work made him feel good."
  • Object of a preposition: "Everyone went home after the meeting except Phil.
ablator (s) (noun), ablators (pl)
1. The heat shields of space vehicles, which melt or wear away during the reentry into the earth's atmosphere: The scientist created a new ablator which could withstand extreme heat.
2. The outer surface of a spacecraft or missile: Ablation is the erosion of the protective outer surface, or ablator, of a spacecraft or missile resulting from aerodynamic heating caused by travel at hypersonic speeds during reentry through the atmosphere.

The ablators on the spacecraft were welded into place using a specialized metal that would withstand great heat.

ablaut (s) (noun), ablauts (pl)
The change of one root vowel into another one to show a variation of tense, part of speech, or meaning: The following ablauts show how certain verbs change their tenses: swim, swam, swum; sing, sang, sung; drink, drank, drunk; sink, sank, sunk; and many other irregular verbs.

The students were asked to find the single example of an ablaut in the poem that they memorized.

The grammar teacher wrote several examples of ablauts on the chalkboard for the students to study.

abluent (s) (noun), abluents (pl)
A cleansing agent; a detergent: Vanessa uses vinegar as an abluent when she cleans the sink in the bathroom.

There are usually several different abluents available in supermarkets that are used to clean all kinds of things in one's home.

abluent (adjective), more abluent, most abluent
Descriptive of a cleaning agent: Anthony used an abluent detergent to wash away the dirt on his car after the severe dust storm.

The abluent effects of vinegar are said to be of great value.

ablution (uh BLOO shuhn) (s) (noun), ablutions (pl)
1. A washing or cleansing; such as, a religious ceremony of purification; a ceremonial washing, or the ritualistic freeing of a person or people from sin or guilt: The priest performed ceremonies of ablutions for his followers.

In some religions, an ablution may be a prescribed washing of part or all of the body or of possessions; such as, clothing or ceremonial objects, with the intent of purification or dedication.

2. The liquid used in showering which may refer to the practice of removing sins, diseases, or earthly defilements through the use of ritual deputation (to become purified or cleansed): Before saying his prayers, Gregory used an ablution that represented the spiritual cleansing of his sins.

Like most ritual acts, ablutions may carry a wide range of meanings for those who perform it; for example, the act of cleansing may be only a gesture that is symbolic of a desired purity of the soul.

3. A scrubbing of a person's body or body parts; a bathing, a cleaning: Because of the heat, Charlene felt the need for a refreshing ablution.

After consecutive ablutions at the sink, Pearl was finally able to wash the smell of garlic off her hands.

Gertrude's husband performed an ablution of his feet every night before going to bed.

4. Etymology: from Latin abluere, "to wash off"; ab-, "away" + luere, "to wash".
A washing, a cleaning.
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