A , a , indecl. n. (sometimes joined with
I.littera), the first letter of the Latin alphabet, corresponding to the a, α of the other Indo-. European languages: “A primum est: hinc incipiam, et quae nomina ab hoc sunt, Lucil. ap. Terent. Scaur. p. 2255 P.: sus rostro si humi A litteram impresserit,Cic. Div. 1, 13, 23: “ne in A quidem atque S litteras exire temere masculina Graeca nomina recto casu patiebantur,Quint. 1, 5, 61.
II.The sound of the A is short or long in every part of the word; as, ăb, păter, ită; ā, māter, frustrā. During a short period (between about 620 and 670 A. U. C. = from 134 to 84 B.C.) long a was written aa, probably first by the poet L. Attius, in the manner of the Oscan language; so we find in Latin inscriptions: AA. CETEREIS (i.e.a ceteris), CALAASI, FAATO, HAACE, MAARCIVM, PAAPVS, PAASTORES, VAARVS; and in Greek writing, MAAPKOΨ ΨIOΣ MAAPKEAAOΣ, KOINTON MAAPKION (like Osc. aasas = Lat. āra, Osc. Paapi = Lat. Pāpius, Osc. Paakul = Lat. Pāculus, Pācullus, Pācuvius, etc.), v. Ritschl, Monum. Epigr. p. 28 sq., and cf. Mommsen, Unterital. Dialekte, p. 210 sq. (The Umbrian language has gone a step farther, and written long a by aha, as Aharna, Naharcom, trahaf, etc.; cf. Aufrecht and Kirchhoff, Umbrische Sprachdenkm. p. 76 sq.) Vid. also the letters E and U.
III.In etymological and grammatical formation of words, short a very often (sometimes also long a) is changed into other vowels.
A.Short a is changed,
1., into long a
a.In consequence of the suppression of the following consonants at the end or in the middle of the word: ŭb, ā; vădis, vūs; ăg-, ăg-men, exāmen; tăg-, contūmino; căd-, cāsus. Hence also in the abl. sing. of the first decl., and in the particles derived from it. in consequence of the suppression of the original ablat. end. -d: PRAEDAD (Col. Rostr.), praedā; SENTENTIAD (S. C. de Bacch.), sententiā; EXTBAD (ib.), extrā; SVPRAD (ib.), suprā. —Hence,
b.In perfect forms: scăb-o, scābi; căveo, cūvi; făv-eo, fāvi; păv-eo, pāvi (for scăbui, căvui, făvui, păvui).
c.In other forms: ăgo, ambūges; păc-, păc-iscor, pâcis (pâx); săg-ax, sūgus, sāga; măc-er, mâcero; făg- (φαγεῖν), fūgus. (Contrary to analogy, ă remains short in dănunt, from dă-in-unt, V. Ritschl, l.l.p. 17.)
2.Short a is changed into é or ē—
a.Into é. (a) Most frequently in the second part of compounds, particularly before two consonants: facio, confectus; jacio, conjectus; rapio, dereptus; dăm-, damno, condemno; fāl-, fallo, fefelli; măn-, mando, commendo; scando, ascendo; ăp-, aptus, ineptus; ăr-, ars, iners, sollers; ăn-, annus, perennis; căpio, auceps; căput, triceps; ăgo, remex; jăcio, objex. And thus in Plautus, according to the best MSS., dispenno, dispessus from pando, compectus from compăciscor, anteceptus from capio (on the other hand, in Vergil, according to the best MS., aspurgo, attractare, deiractare, kept their a unchanged).
(β). Sometimes ă is changed into ĕ also before one consonant (but in this case it is usually changed into ĭ; v. infra, 3. a. a.): grădior, ingrĕdior; pătior, perpĕtior; părio, repĕrio; păro, vitupĕro; ăp-, coepi (i. e. co-ŭpi); căno, tubicĕn, tibicĕn; in the reduplicated carcĕr (from carcar) farfŏrus (written also farfārus); and so, according to the better MSS., aequipĕro from păro, and defĕtigo from fătigo.
(γ). In words taken from the Greek: τάλαντον, talŏntum; φάλαρα, phalŏrae; σίσαρον, sisŏr (but, according to the best MSS., cumŭra from καμάρα, not camŏra).
b.Short a is changed to ē in some perfect forms: ăgo, ēgi; fūcio, féci; jăci, jĕci; frag-, frango, frēgi; căpio, cēpi, and păg-, pango, pēgi (together with pepĭgi and panxi, v. pango).
3.Short a is changed to ĭ, a (most frequently in the second part of compounds)
(α). before one consonant: ăgo, abĭgo; făcio, confĭcio; cădo, concĭdo; sălio, assĭlio; răpio, abrĭpio; păter, Juppĭter (in Umbrian lang. unchanged, Jupater), Marspĭter; Diespĭter, Opĭter; rătus, irrĭtus; ămicus, inìmicus (but ŭ remains unchanged in adŭmo, impătiens, and in some compounds of a later period of Roman literature, as praejacio, calefacio, etc.). —
(β). Sometimes also before two consonants (where it is usually changed into ĕ; v. supra, 2. α. β.): tăg-, tango, contingo; păg-, pango, compingo (unchanged in some compounds, as peragro, desacro, depango, obcanto, etc.).
b.ă is changed into ĭ in the reduplicated perfect forms: cădo, cecĭdi; căno, cecĭni; tăg-, tango, tetĭgi; păg-, pango, pepĭgi.
c.Likewise in some roots which have ă: păg-, pignus; străg- (strangulo, στράγγω), stringo.
d.In words taken from the Greek: μηχανή, machĭna; πατάνη, patĭna; βυκάνη, bucĭna; τρυτάνη, trutĭna; βαλανεῖον, balĭneum; Κατάνα, Catĭna (written also Catana); ‘Ακράγας, Agrĭgentum.
4.Short a is changed into short or long o.
a.Into ŏ: scăbo, scobs; păr, pars, portio; dăm-, dŏmo; Fabii, Fŏvii (v. Paul. ex Fest. p. 87); μάρμαρον, marmŏr; Mars, redupl. Marmar, Marmor (Carm. Fratr. Arv.).
b.Into ō: dă-, dōnum, dōs; ăc-, ăcuo, ōcior (v. this art.).
5.Short a is changed into ŭ
a.In the second part of compounds, particularly before l, p, and b: calco, inculco; salsus, insulsus; salto, exsulto; capio, occŭpo; răpio, surrupio and surruptus (also written surripio and surreptus); tăberna, contŭbernium; —before other consonants: quătio, conoŭtio; as, decussis; Mars, Mamŭrius, Mamŭralia; and once also condumnari (Tab. Bant. lin. 8, immediately followed by condemnatus, v. Klenze, Philol. Abhandl. tab. I., and Mommsen, Unterital. Dial. p. 149).
b.In words of Greek origin: ‘Εκάβη, Hecŭba; σκυτάλη, scutŭla; κραιπάλη, crapŭla; πάσσαλος, pessŭlus; ᾶφλαστον, aplustre; θρίαμβος, triumphus.
c.ă is perhaps changed into ŭ in ulciscor, compared with alc-, ὐλέξω (arc-, arceo).
B.Long a is sometimes changed into ē or ō.
1.Into é: hālo, anhélo; fās-, féstus, profēstus; nām, némpe.
2.Into ō: gnā-, gnārus, ignārus, ignōro. (But in general long a remains unchanged in composition: lābor, delūbor; gnàvus, ignūnus; fàma, infūmis.)
IV.Contrary to the mode of changing Greek α into Latin e, i, o, u (v. supra), Latin a has sometimes taken the place of other Greek vowels in words borrowed from the Greek, as: λόγχη, lancea; κύλιξ, călix; Γανυμηὀης, Caiāmitus.
V.The repugnance of the Latin Language to the Greek combined vowels αο has caused the translocation of them in Alumento for Δαομέὸων (Paul. ex Fest. p. 18 Müll.).— Greek α is suppressed in Hercules from ‘Ηρακλῆς (probably in consequence of the inserted u; in late Latin we find Heracla and Heracula, cf. Ritschl, in Rhein. Mus. Neue Folge, vol. 12, p. 108).
VI.Latin ă was early combined with the vowels i and u, forming the diphthongs ai and au; by changing the i into e, the diphthong ai soon became ae. So we find in the oldest inscriptions: AIDE, AIDLLIS, AIQVOM, GNAIVOD, HAICE, DVELONAI, TABELAI, DATAI, etc., which soon gave place to aedem, aedilis, aequom, Gnaeo, haec, Bellonae, tabellae, datae, etc. (the Col. Rostr. has PRAESENTE, PRAEDAD, and the S. C. de Bacch. AEDEM. The triphthong aei, found in CONQVAEISIVEI (?), is very rare; Miliar. Popil. lin. 11, v. Ritschl, l. l. p. 21). In some poets the old gen. sing. of the first decl. (-ai) is preserved, but is dissyllabic, āī. So in Ennius: Albūī Longūī, terrūī frugiferāī, frondosāī, lunāī, viāī; in Vergil: aulāī, aurāī, aquāī, pictāī; in Ausonius: herāī.
B.ue as well as au are changed into other vowels.
1.The sound of ae, e, and oe being very similar, these vowels are often interchanged in the best MSS., So we find caerimonia and cerimonia, caepa and cēpa, saeoulum and séculum; scaena and scēna; caelum and coelum, haedus and hoedus, macstus and moestus; cena, coena, and caena, etc.
2.In composition and reduplications ae becomes í: aequus, iníquus; quaero, inquíro; laedo, illído; taedet, pertisum (noticed by Cic.); aestumo, exístumo; cuedo, cecídi, concído, homicida. is also changed into í in a Latinized word of Greek origin: ἈχαιόςἈχαιϝός, Achíous.
4.The diphthong au is often changed to ó and ú (the latter particularly in compounds): caudex, códex; Claudius, Clodius; lautus, lotus; plaustrum, plōstrum; plaudo, plōdo, explōdo; paululum, pōlulum; faux, suffōco; si audes (acc. to Cic. or acc. to others, si audies), sódes, etc.; claudo, inclūdo; causa, accūso. Hence in some words a regular gradation of au, o, u is found: claudo, clōdicare, clúdo; raudus, ródus, rúdus; caupo, cópa, cūpa; naugae, nōgae (both forms in the MSS. of Plautus), nūgae; fraustra, frode, frude (in MSS. of Vergil); cf. Ritschl, in Wintercatalog 1854-55, and O. Ribbeck, in Jahn's Neue Jahrb. vol. 77, p. 181 sq.—The change of au into and ō appears only in audio, (oboedio) obēdio.
5.Au sometimes takes the place of av-: faveo, fautum, favitor, fautor; navis, navita, nauta; avis, auceps, auspex. So Latin aut corresponds to Sanscr. avo. (whence -, Lat. -ve), Osc. avti, Umbr. ute, ote; and so the Lat. preposition ab, through av, becomes au in the words aufero and aufugio (prop. av-fero, av-fugio, for ab-fero, ab-fugio). Vid. the art. ab init.
VII.In primitive roots, which have their kindred forms in the sister-languages of the Latin, the original a, still found in the Sanscrit, is in Latin either preserved or more frequently changed into other vowels.
A.Original a preserved: Sanscr. mātri, Lat. màter; S. bhrātri, L. fràter; S. nāsā, L. nàsus and nàris; S. ap, L. aqua; S. apa, L. ab; S. nāma, L. năm; S. ćatur, L. quattuor (in Greek changed: τἑτταρες); S. capūla, L. căput (in Greek changed: κεφαλή, etc.).
B.Original a is changed into other Latin vowels—
1. Into e: S. ad, L. ed (ĕdo); S. as, L. es (esse); S. pat, L. pet (peto); S. pād, L. pĕd (pès); S. dant, L. dent (dens); S. ǵan, L. gen (gigno); S. , L. mè-tior; S. saptan, L. septem; S. daśan, L. decem; S. śata, L. centum; S. aham, L. ŏgo; S. pāra, L. per; S. paśu, L. pŏcus; S. asva, L. ŏquus, etc.
2. Into i: S. an-, a- (neg. part.), L. in-: S. ana (prep.), L. in; S. antar, L. inter; S. sama, L. similis; S. agni, L. ignis; S. abhra, L. imber; S. panéa, L. quinque, etc.
3. Into o: S. avi, L. ŏvi (ovis); S. vać, L. vōc (voco); S. pra, L. pro; S. , L. po (pŏtum); S. nāma, L. nōmen; S. api, L. ŏb; S. navan, L. nŏvem; S. nava, L. nŏvus, etc.
4. Into u: S. marmara, L. murmur.
5. Into ai, ae: S. prati, L. (prai) prae; S. śaśpa, L. caespes.
6. Into different vowels in the different derivatives: S. , L. mê-tior, mŏdus; S. praó, L. prŏcor, prŏcus; S. vah, L. vĕho, via.
C. Sometimes the Latin has preserved the original a, while even the Sanscrit has changed it: Lat. pa-, pater, Sanscr. pd, pitri.
2. As an abbreviation A. usually denotes the praenomen Aulus; A. A. = Auli duo, Inscr. Orell. 1530 (but A. A. = Aquae Aponi, the modern Abano, ib. 1643 sq.; 2620; 3011). The three directors of the mint were designated by III. VIRI A. A. A. F. F. (i. e. auro, argento, aeri flando, feriundo), ib. 569; 2242; 2379; 3134 al.; “so also A. A. A.,ib. 3441 (cf. Cic. Fam. 7, 13 fin., and v. the art. Triumviri); A. D. A. agris dandis adsignandis, and A. I. A. agris judicandis adsignandis; A. O. amico optimo; A. P. a populo or aediliciae potestatis; A. P. R. aerario populi Romani. —Upon the voting tablets in judicial trials A. denoted absoluo; hence A. is called littera salutaris, Cic. Mil. 6, 15; v. littera. In the Roman Comitia A. (=antiquo) denoted the rejection of the point in question; v. antiquo. In Cicero's Tusculan Disputations the A. designated one of the disputants = adulescens or auditor, opp. to M. for magister or Marcus (Cicero); but it is to be remarked that the letters A and M do not occur in the best MSS. of this treatise; cf. edd. ad Cic. Tusc. 1, 5, 9.—In dates A. D. =ante diem; v. ante; A. U. C. = anno urbis conditae; A. P. R. C. anno post Romam conditam.
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  • Cross-references in general dictionaries from this page (5):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 7.13
    • Cicero, For Milo, 6.15
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, 1.13
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 1.5
    • Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, Book 1, 5.61
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