25 Adverbs That Get an “A”

By Mark Nichol

You already know many adverbs that start with a-, a prefix that can mean, among other things, “on” (aboard) “in a state” (asleep), or “in a manner” (aloud). Here’s a roster of some of the lesser-known words in this class, many of which inspire vivid imagery, evoke an archaic or rustic tone, or conjure an amusing tableau, perhaps all at once:

1. Aback (“surprised”; usually employed in the phrase “taken aback” in a passively constructed sentence): “She was taken aback by his vehemence.”

2. Abaft (“at or toward the stern”): “They found the drunken sailor abaft, sleeping in a lifeboat.”

3. Abed (“in bed”): “He found his friend abed, felled by a high fever.”

4. Ablaze (“on fire”): “As they had feared, the shed was ablaze, the flames lighting the night sky.”

5. Afar (“at a distance”): “From afar, they descried the outline of a magnificent castle.”

6. Afield (“on the field,” “away from home,” or “lost”): “The absentminded fellow, engrossed in a scholarly volume, soon found himself far afield.”

7. Afire (see ablaze)

8. Aflutter (“agitated,” or “flapping”): “The ladies were all aflutter at
hearing the stranger’s vivid imprecations.”

9. Afoot (“on foot,” or “under way”): “The conspirators, he noticed as he watched them sneak away from the house, were already afoot.”

10. Afresh (“again”): “Invigorated by the contents of the flask, we strode off afresh.”

11. Agape (“gaping,” or “exhibiting wonder”): “We stood staring at the spectacle, mouths agape.”

12. Aghast (“shocked”): “She stood aghast, rendered speechless by the destruction we had wrought.”

13. Agog (“eager”): “We kids were of course agog with excitement, for it was Christmas morning.”

14. Apace (“quickly,” or “keeping up with”): “The children kept apace with the marching band.”

15. Aright (“correctly,” or “in proper orientation”): “We set the fallen statue aright.”

16. Askance (“sideways,” and, by association, “with suspicion”): “Doubtful of the newcomer’s motives, she looked askance at him.”

17. Askew (“out of line,” or “disheveled”; the root word is skew, “oblique, slanted”): “His coat hung askew on his shoulders.”

18. Aslant (“at a slant,” “oblique”): “The sun’s rays struck the wall aslant.”

19. Aslope (“sloping,” or “slanting”): “The poorly erected tent tottered aslope under the tree.”

20. Astir (“active,” or “out of bed”): “She found the children, excited about the day’s celebration, already astir in their room.”

21. Astride (“with legs apart or on each side”): “He stood with his legs astride the struggling figure.”

22. Asunder (“apart,” or “in parts”): “The parchment had been rent asunder, and they painstakingly pieced it back together.”

23. Athwart (“obliquely across,” or “erroneously” or “unexpectedly”): “The rifle lay athwart the seat of the rowboat.”

24. Atilt (“tilted,” or, from tilt as a synonym for joust, “armed with a lance”): “The clumsily mounted knight charged, atilt in more than one sense.”

25. Awry (“turned” or “twisted,” or “other than correct or expected”): “To their dismay, they found that their plot had gone awry.”

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6 Responses to “25 Adverbs That Get an “A””

  • Oliver Lawrence

    Nice. The example for “apace” is a little awry, though; try: “The children kept pace with the band as they continued apace.”

  • Sarah

    Many thanks for all these lists – they always teach me something. I do agree with Oliver regarding “apace,” though. There’s a first time for everyone to make a little mistake, I suppose!

  • Phil South

    Great list. I love rustic sounding adverbs. I try and use awry as much as possible and since reading that list I intend to work Askance into every day conversation.

  • AnWulf

    aback – toward or situated to the rear: the little strip of pasture aback of the house. (OED)

    apace – swiftly; quickly: work continues apace. (OED)

    Not in the wordbook, but if you feel creativ … arood (across)

  • Ren

    The list has a nice rhythm until you get to awry. Then it’s just like, “hey…” But, no, I totally love adverbs. I’ve read that I shouldn’t, but I do.

  • Ken K

    Great.

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