In Ancient Greek, the "privative alpha" is a negating prefix, cognate to Latin in- (as in "in-conceivable", not "in-flammable") and English "un-". It survives in English in words like "a-typical" and "an-archy".

But when asking this question, about a name with a privative alpha, I realized there's one important thing I never learned. Is that alpha long or short? And is it consistently one or the other, or does it vary?

1 Answer 1


Alpha privative was short in Ancient Greek, as shown in Smyth (1920) §885 (a long vowel would have been written with a macron, rendered on the Perseus website as an underscore after the vowel).

Alpha from PIE syllabic n was short as a general rule.

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