A, as a prefix to English words, is derived from various sources. (1) It frequently signifies on or in (from an, a forms of AS. on), denoting a state, as in afoot, on foot, abed, amiss, asleep, aground, aloft, away (AS. onweg), and analogically, ablaze, atremble, etc. (2) AS. of off, from, as in adown (AS. ofdune off the dun or hill). (3) AS. a- (Goth. us-, ur-, Ger. er-), usually giving an intensive force, and sometimes the sense of away, on, back, as in arise, abide, ago. (4) Old English y- or i- (corrupted from the AS. inseparable particle ge-, cognate with OHG. ga-, gi-, Goth. ga-), which, as a prefix, made no essential addition to the meaning, as in aware. (5) French a (L. ad to), as in abase, achieve. (6) L. a, ab, abs, from, as in avert. (7) Greek insep. prefix α without, or privative, not, as in abyss, atheist; akin to E. un-.
Besides these, there are other sources from which the prefix a takes its origin.
© Webster 1913.