not, without

Quick Summary

Prefixes are key morphemes in English vocabulary that begin words. The Greek prefix a- and its variant an- mean “not.” An easy way to remember that the prefix a- means “not” is through the word apolitical, which describes a person who is “not” inclined to favor politics. Someone who is anonymous is going around “not” having a name.

A-Not An-!

The English prefix a- and its variant an- both mean “not.” Do “not” worry about suffering from amnesia about the meaning of this prefix after listening to this podcast!

First let’s talk about the prefix a-, which means “not.” If someone is suffering from amnesia, he is “not” able to remember things. If you are apathetic about people or things, you do “not” care about them at all. In a related vein, someone who is asocial is “not” social, being “not” really interested in hanging out with other people. An apolitical person is, you guessed it, “not” interested in politics in the least.

Have you ever considered whether or not God exists? If you are an atheist, you do “not” believe in a supreme being. Have you ever looked at an amoeba under a microscope? If so, you probably know that it is not defined by a single shape, but changes it constantly; therefore, it is considered to be amorphous, or does “not” have a fixed shape. Speaking of things scientific, at the time when the word atom was coined it was considered to be the smallest possible particle of matter, and therefore could “not” be cut.

Now let’s move onto the variant of a-, or an-, which also means “not;” this variant appears before roots beginning with a vowel. Someone who is anemic does “not” have enough red blood cells. A person who takes ibuprofen or aspirin is looking to have her pain relieved; these pain killers are called analgesics, which help people “not” have pain. A state of anarchy in a country is a social situation where there is “not” a controlling central government. And if you want to be anonymous, you go around “not” giving out your true name, or any name at all.

Now you will never again suffer from abulia, or “not” being able to make up your mind, at least when it comes to the prefixes a- and an-!

  1. amnesia: ‘not’ able to remember
  2. apathetic: ‘not’ caring
  3. asocial: ‘not’ social
  4. apolitical: ‘not’ political
  5. atheist: ‘not’ believing in a deity
  6. amorphous: ‘not’ having a shape
  7. atom: particle of matter which can “not” be cut
  8. anemia: having ‘not’ enough hemoglobin or red blood cells
  9. analgesic: pertains to ‘not’ having pain
  10. anarchy: a state of ‘not’ having a central ruling authority in a country or nation
  11. anonymous: ‘not’ having a name
  12. abulia: ‘not’ being able to make a decision


  • atrophy

    Atrophy is a process by which parts of the body, such as muscles and organs, lessen in size or weaken in strength due to internal nerve damage, poor nutrition, or aging.

  • amorphous

    Something that is amorphous has no clear shape, boundaries, or structure.

  • abysmal

    A situation or condition that is abysmal is extremely bad or of wretched quality.

  • apathy

    Apathy is a lack of interest or unenthusiastic involvement in an activity; there is no effort to change or improve it at all.

  • agnostic

    An agnostic is a person who believes that it is impossible to know conclusively whether or not God exists; an agnostic can be doubtful about other things as well.

  • amnesty

    The granting of an amnesty is forgiveness by a government for criminal political offenses.

  • aphasia

    Aphasia is the sudden inability to speak or understand written language due to injury to or disease of the brain.

  • abyss

    a bottomless gulf or pit

  • asymmetry

    (mathematics) a lack of symmetry

  • atheist

    related to or characterized by or given to atheism

  • atom

    (physics and chemistry) the smallest component of an element having the chemical properties of the element

  • atomic

    of or relating to or comprising atoms

  • abyssal

    relating to ocean depths from 2000 to 5000 meters

  • amnesia

    partial or total loss of memory

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