an-(word root) not, without
Examples of words with the root an-: anhydrous
Abused, Confused, & Misused Words by Mary Embree Copyright © 2007, 2013 by Mary Embree
an 1 (ən; ăn when stressed)
The form of a
used before words beginning with a vowel sound: an elephant; an hour; an umbrella.
See Usage Notes at a2
Word History: The forms of the indefinite article are good examples of what can happen to a word when it becomes habitually pronounced without stress. An is in fact a weakened form of one; both an and one come from Old English ān, "one." In early Middle English, besides representing the cardinal numeral "one," ān developed the special function of indefinite article, and in this role the word was ordinarily pronounced with very little or no stress. Sound changes that affected unstressed syllables elsewhere in the language affected it also. First, the vowel was shortened and eventually reduced to a schwa (ə). Second, the n was lost before consonants. This loss of n affected some other words as well; it explains why English has both my and mine, thy and thine. Originally these were doublets just like a and an, with mine and thine occurring only before vowels, as in Ben Jonson's famous line "Drink to me only with thine eyes." By the time of Modern English, though, my and thy had replaced mine and thine when used before nouns (that is, when not used predicatively, as in This book is mine), just as some varieties of Modern English use a even before vowels (a apple).
an 2 also an' (ən, ăn when stressed)
And if; if: "an it please your majesty / To hunt the panther and the hart with me" (Shakespeare).
[Middle English, short for and, and, from Old English; see and.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
an (æn; unstressed ən)
a form of the indefinite article used before an initial vowel sound: an old car; an elf; an honour.
[Old English ān one]
Usage: An was formerly often used before words that begin with h and are unstressed on the first syllable: an hotel; an historic meeting. Sometimes the initial h was not pronounced. This usage is now becoming obsolete
an (æn; unstressed ən) or
) an obsolete or dialect word for if
the internet domain name for
(Computer Science) Netherlands Antilles
(Non-European Myth & Legend) myth the Sumerian sky god. Babylonian counterpart: Anu
the chemical symbol for
1. (Languages) Anglo-Norman
2. (Peoples) Anglo-Norman
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
an1 (ən; when stressed æn)
the form of a 1
before an initial vowel sound(an arch; an honor
) and sometimes, esp. in British English, before an initial unstressed syllable beginning with a silent or weakly pronounced h
: an historian.
[before 950; Middle English; Old English ān one
an3 (ən; when stressed æn)
the form of a2
before an initial vowel sound: 14 dollars an ounce; 55 miles an hour.
or an' (ən; when stressed æn)
[1125–75; Middle English, unstressed phonetic variant of and
a prefix occurring orig. in loanwords from Greek, with the meanings “not,” “without,” “lacking” ( anaerobic; anhydrous; anonymous
); regularly attached to words or stems beginning with a vowel or h.
var. of ad-
before n: announce.
var. of ana-
before a vowel: anion.
a suffix with the general sense “of, pertaining to, having qualities of,” occurring orig. in adjectives borrowed from Latin and formed from nouns denoting places ( Roman; urban
) or persons ( Augustan
), now commonly forming adjectives and nouns denoting affiliation with a place or membership in a group (Chicagoan; crustacean; Episcopalian
); attached to personal names, it may additionally mean “contemporary with” (Elizabethan
) or “proponent of” (Freudian
). The suffix -an1
also occurs in personal nouns denoting one who engages in, practices, or works with the referent of the base word (comedian; electrician; historian
). See -ian
for relative distribution with that suffix. Compare -arian
[Middle English < Latin -ānus; or replacing -ain, -en < Old French < Latin]
a suffix used in the names of organic chemical compounds, esp. polysaccharides: pentosan; xanthan.
[of uncertain orig.]
Chem. Symbol. actinon.
in the year.
[< Latin annō]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
1. 'a' and 'an'
You usually use a and an when it is not clear or important which specific thing or person you are referring to. You only use a and an with singular countable nouns. When you are talking about a specific person or thing, you usually use the.
She decided to buy a car.
He parked the car in front of the bakery.
You can describe someone or something using a or an with an adjective and a noun, or with a noun followed by more information.
His brother was a sensitive child.
The information was contained in an article on biology.
Don't omit a or an in front of a noun when the noun refers to someone's profession or job. For example, you say 'He is an architect'. Don't say 'He is architect'.
She became a lawyer.
2. 'a' or 'an'?
You use a in front of words beginning with consonant sounds and an in front of words beginning with vowel sounds.
Then I saw a tall woman standing by the window.
We live in an old house.
You use an in front of words beginning with 'h' when the 'h' is not pronounced. For example, you say 'an honest man'. Don't say 'a honest man'.
The meeting lasted an hour.
An is used in front of the following words beginning with 'h':
You use a in front of words beginning with 'u' when the 'u' is pronounced /juː/ (like 'you'). For example, you say 'a unique occasion'. Don't say 'an unique occasion'.
He was a university professor.
She became a union member.
A is used in front of the following words:
You use an in front of an abbreviation when the letters are pronounced separately and the first letter begins with a vowel sound.
Before she became an MP, she was a social worker.
He drives an SUV.
3. 'a' meaning 'one'
A and an are used to mean 'one' in front of some numbers and units of measurement.
Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012