Aphæresis

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(This page forms part of a Course in Figures of Speech. You can find an introduction to it at Figures of Speech course. This page can stand on its own, as well. You may have accessed it from a page on a particular example.)

Aphæresis is "The taking away or suppression of a letter or syllable at the beginning of a word." It is thus a special form of elision. Examples include special (the more modern form of the original especial); phone, for the original telephone; and the military command 'ten-shun! (or even 'shun!) for [stand at] attention. It is quite common in traditional verse, where one can see forms such as 'neath for beneath.

A specific form of aphaeresis is seen in the development of words such as round (colloquially for around in the sense of 'approximately: "I'll be there round four [o'clock]"); squire (from esquire) and in the poetic formation 'tis (it is). This - where only a vowel is dropped at the beginning of a word - is properly aphesis.

The spelling preferred in American English is apheresis (and apheretic).