What Is Apocope?

Hamburgers and vegetable skewers on barbecue grill
"After he left the city, thousands of people toasted him with beer at a barbie, an Australian barbecue." ("Pope in Australia," The New York Times, Dec. 1, 1986). Caiaimage/Sam Edwards / Getty Images

Apocope is a rhetorical term for the omission of one or more sounds or syllables from the end of a word.

Also called end-cut, apocope is a type of elision.

Etymology: From the Greek, "to cut off"

Examples and Observations

  • "Season your admiration for a while with an attent ear."
    (William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, scene 2)
  • "Loss of sounds from the end of a word is known as apocope, as in the pronunciation of child as chile."
    (Thomas Pyles and John Algeo, The Origins and Development of the English Language. Harcourt, 1982)
  • "After he left the city, thousands of people toasted him with beer at a barbie, an Australian barbecue."
    ("Pope in Australia," The New York Times, Dec. 1, 1986)
  • "Newspapers have their own style and it is important that your feature matches it. For instance, it would be pointless writing a feature for a staid weekly in the style of something more suitable for a lad's mag."
    (Susan Pape and Sue Featherstone, Feature Writing: A Practical Introduction. Sage, 2000)

New Words and Names

  • "Quite a few English words have resulted from apocope, among them cinema (from cinematograph) and photo (from photograph). Names often undergo apocope (e.g., Barb, Ben, Deb, Steph, Theo, Vince)."
    (Bryan Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage. Oxford University Press, 2009)

Lost Vowels

  • "Apocope is a process that deletes word-final segments, including unstressed (reduced) vowels. In Middle English, many words, such as sweet, root, etc. were pronounced with a final [e], but by the time of modern English, these final reduced vowels had been lost. We still see signs of final reduced vowels in the archaic spelling of words like olde."
    (Mary Louise Edwards and Lawrence D. Shriberg, Phonology: Applications in Communicative Disorders. College-Hill Press, 1983)
  • Oliver Sacks on His Favorite Word
    "One of my favorite words is apocope--I use it (for example) in 'A Surgeon's Life': ' . . . the end of the word omitted by a tactful apocope' (Anthropologist on Mars, Vintage, p. 94).
    "I love its sound, its explosiveness (as do some of my Tourettic friends--for when it becomes a four-syllable verbal tic, which can be impaired or imploded into a tenth of a second), and the fact that it compresses four vowels and four syllables into a mere seven letters."
    (Oliver Sacks, quoted by Lewis Burke Frumkes in Favorite Words of Famous People. Marion Street Press, 2011)

Pronunciation: eh-PAHK-eh-pee

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "What Is Apocope?" ThoughtCo, Sep. 2, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-apocope-1689114. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, September 2). What Is Apocope? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-apocope-1689114 Nordquist, Richard. "What Is Apocope?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-apocope-1689114 (accessed June 6, 2023).