Apocope comes from the Greek ἀποκοπή (apokopḗ) from ἀποκόπτειν (apokóptein) "cutting off", from ἀπο- (apo-) "away from" and κόπτειν (kóptein) "to cut".

Historical sound change

In historical linguistics, apocope is often the loss of an unstressed vowel.

Loss of an unstressed vowel or vowel and nasal

  • Vulgar Latin panem → Spanish pan (bread)
  • Vulgar Latin lupum → French loup (wolf)
  • Proto-Germanic *landąOld, Middle, and Modern English land
  • Old English lufu → Modern English love (noun)
  • Old English lufian → Modern English love (verb)

Loss of other sounds

Case marker

In Estonian and the Sami languages, apocopes explain the forms of grammatical cases. For example, a nominative is described as having apocope of the final vowel, but the genitive does not have it. Throughout its history, however, the genitive case marker has also undergone apocope: Estonian linn ("a city") and linna ("of a city") are derived from linna and linnan respectively, as can still be seen in the corresponding Finnish word.

In the genitive form, the final /n/, while it was being deleted, blocked the loss of /a/. In Colloquial Finnish, the final vowel is sometimes omitted from case markers.

Grammatical rule

Some languages have apocopations that are internalized as mandatory forms. In Spanish and Italian, for example, some adjectives that come before the noun lose the final vowel or syllable if they precede a noun (mainly) in the masculine singular form. In Spanish, some adverbs and cardinal and ordinal numbers have apocopations as well.

  • Adjectives
    • grande ("big, great") → grangran mujer (feminine) ("great woman". However, if the adjective follows the noun, the final syllable remains, but the meaning may also change: mujer grande, meaning "large woman")
    • bueno ("good") → buenbuen hombre (masculine) ("good man"; the final vowel remains in hombre bueno, with no accompanying change in meaning)
  • Adverbs
    • tanto ("so much") → tan ("so") → tan hermoso ("so beautiful")
  • Cardinal numbers
  • Ordinal numbers
    • primero ("first") → primerprimer premio ("first prize")
    • segundo ("second") → según ("according to") → según él ("according to him")
    • tercero ("third") → tercertercer lugar ("third place")
    • postrero ("final") → postrerpostrer día ("final day")

Informal speech

Various sorts of informal abbreviations might be classed as apocope:

  • English photographphoto
  • English animation → Japanese animēshon (アニメーション) → anime (アニメ)
  • English synchronizationsync, synch, syncro, or synchro
  • English AlexanderAlex, Alec and so on with other hypocorisms
  • English clitorisclit[3]:109
  • French sympathiquesympa, meaning "nice"
  • French réactionnaireréac, meaning "reactionary"
  • Spanish fotografíafoto, meaning "photography"
  • Spanish televisióntele, meaning "television" (cf. French télé for télévision)
  • Israeli Hebrew להתראות lehitraotlehit, meaning "see you, goodbye"[3]:155

For a list of similar apocopations in the English language, see List of English apocopations.

Diminutives in Australian English lists many apocopations.

The process is also linguistically subsumed under one called clipping, or truncation.

See also


  • Crowley, Terry. (1997) An Introduction to Historical Linguistics. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press.
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