Asyndetic, Privative Adjectives

Greek | Latin | English

"Asyndetic" means not joined by conjunctions, and "privative" means altering the meaning of a term from positive to negative, by means of a prefix (e.g. a-, non-, un-) or suffix (e.g. -less). An example of a series of asyndetic, privative adjectives in English is John Milton, Paradise Lost 2.185: Unrespited, unpitied, unreprieved.

I am grateful to correspondents who have helped to compile the following list.

Greek Examples

  • Agamemnon 412: Not honored, not reviling († ἄτιμος † ἀλοίδορος)
  • Agamemnon 768-769: Irresistible, unconquerable, unholy (ἄμαχον ἀπόλεμον ἀνίερον)
  • Eumenides 565: Unwept, unseen (ἄκλαυτος αἶστος)
  • Libation Bearers 55: Invincible, irresistible, unconquerable (ἄμαχον ἀδάματον ἀπόλεμον)
  • Persians 855-856: Guileless, disinclined to fight (ἀκάκας / ἄμαχος)
  • Persians 862: Without toil, without suffering (ἀπόνους ἀπαθεῖς)
  • Suppliant Women 853: Without honor, without a city (ἀτίετον ἄπολιν)
  • Frogs 204 (tr. anon.): With no experience, no seamanship, no Salamis (ἄπειρος ἀθαλάττωτος ἀσαλαμίνιος)
  • Frogs 838: Without bridle, without restraint, without bar (ἀχάλινον ἀκρατὲς ἀπύλωτον)
  • Discourses of Epictetus 1.4.18 (tr. W.A. Oldfather, slightly revised): as to make it finally harmonious with nature, elevated, free, unhindered, untrammelled, faithful, honorable (ὥστε σύμφωνον ἀποτελέσαι τῇ φύσει, ὑψηλὴν ἐλευθέραν ἀκώλυτον ἀνεμπόδιστον πιστὴν αἰδήμονα).
  • Discourses of Epictetus 1.6.40 (tr. W.A. Oldfather, slightly revised): He has given them to us free from all restraint, compulsion, hindrance (ἀκώλυτον τοῦτο ἔδωκεν, ἀνανάγκαστον, ἀπαραπόδιστον).
  • Discourses of Epictetus 3.3.10: Unhindered, unconstrained, unentangled (ἀκώλυτον ἀνανάγκαστον ἀπαραπόδιστον)
  • 2.63 b (quoting an anonymous riddle, to which the answer is snail, tr. S. Douglas Olson, slightly revised): Born in the woods, spineless, bloodless, leaving a moist trail (ὑλογενής, ἀνάκανθος, ἀναίματος, ὑγροκέλευθος)
  • 19.23: Without bed, without sleep (ἄκοιτον ἄυπνον)
  • 4.36: Unarranged, uncorrected, undetermined (ἄτακτα, ἀδιόρθωτα, ἀόρισθ')
  • 9.40: Useless, unprofitable, unavailing (ἄχρηστα ἄπρακτα ἀνόνητα)
  • 25.52 (tr. J.H. Vince): Implacable, restless, unsociable (ἄσπειστος ἀνίδρυτος ἄμεικτος)
  • Andromache 491: Godless, lawless, graceless (ἄθεος ἄνομος ἄχαρις)
  • Hecuba 669: Without a child, without a husband, without a city (ἄπαις ἄνανδρος ἄπολις)
  • Helen 689: Unmarried, childless (ἄγαμος ἄτεκνος)
  • Helen 1148: Faithless, unjust, godless (ἄπιστος ἄδικος ἄθεος)
  • Hippolytus 1027-1028: Without fame, without a name, without a city, without a home (ἀκλεὴς ἀνώνυμος ἄπολις ἄοικος)
  • Hypsipyle, fr. 752h.18: Without a city, without a guide (ἄπολις ἀνερμήνευτος)
  • Iphigenia Among the Taurians 220: Unmarried, without a child, without a city, without a friend (ἄγαμος ἄτεκνος ἄπολις ἄφιλος)
  • Orestes 205-206: Unmarried, childless (ἄγαμος / [ἐπὶ δ'] ἄτεκνος)
    206 ἐπὶ δ' L: ἔπιδ᾽ rell.: secl. Wilamowitz, e Σ irrepsisse ratus
  • Orestes 310: Without a brother, without a father, without a friend (ἀνάδελφος ἀπάτωρ ἄφιλος)
  • Phoenician Women 1634: Unmourned, unburied (ἄκλαυτον ἄταφον)
  • Suppliant Women 966: Without a son, without a child (ἄπαις ἄτεκνος)
  • Trojan Women 1085 (tr. David Kovacs, revised): Unburied, with no lustral water (ἄθαπτος ἄνυδρος)
  • Trojan Women 1186: Without a city, without a child (ἄπολις ἄτεκνος)
  • Palamedes 36: Godless, unjust, unlawful (ἄθεον ἄδικον ἄνομον)
  • 1.32.6: Unmaimed is he, without disease, without suffering evils (ἄπηρος δὲ ἐστί, ἄνουσος, ἀπαθὴς κακῶν)
  • Iliad 9.63 (tr. A.T. Murray): Clanless, lawless, hearthless (ἀφρήτωρ ἀθέμιστος ἀνέστιός)
  • Iliad 13.37: Not to be broken, not to be loosened (ἀρρήκτους ἀλύτους)
  • Iliad 22.386 Unmourned, unburied (ἄκλαυτος ἄθαπτος)
  • Odyssey 1.242: Unseen, unknown (ἄιστος ἄπυστος)
  • Odyssey 4.788: Fasting, not tasting food or drink (ἄσιτος ἄπαστος ἐδητύος ἠδὲ ποτῆτος)
  • Odyssey 11.72 Unmourned, unburied (ἄκλαυτος ἄθαπτος)
Homeric Hymns
  • To Demeter 200: Not smiling, fasting, not tasting food or drink (ἀγέλαστος ἄσιτος ἄπαστος ἐδητύος ἠδὲ ποτῆτος)
  • George Ewart Bean, Journeys in Northern Lycia 1965-1967 = Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische Klasse, Denkschriften [DAW], 104. Ergänzungsbände zu den Tituli Asiae Minoris, 4 (Vienna, 1971), tr. Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians (1986; rpt. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989), p. 169: untaught, motherless, unshakeable (ἀδίδακτος, ἀμήτωρ, ἀστυφέλικτος)
[Pseudo-] Lucian
  • Philopatris 13 (tr. M.D. MacLeod) Imperishable, invisible, incomprehensible ἄφθιτον ἀόρατον ἀκατανόητον.
    3 (Hymn to Nemesis), line 7: unresting, trackless (ἄστατον ἀστιβῆ)
New Testament
  • Romans 1.30-31: Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful. (καταλάλους, θεοστυγεῖς, ὑβριστάς, ὑπερηφάνους, ἀλαζόνας, ἐφευρετὰς κακῶν, γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς, ἀσυνέτους, ἀσυνθέτους, ἀστόργους, ἀνελεήμονας.)
  • 1 Timothy 1.17: Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (τῷ δὲ βασιλεῖ τῶν αἰώνων, ἀφθάρτῳ, ἀοράτῳ, μόνῳ θεῷ, τιμὴ καὶ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων· ἀμήν.)
  • 1 Timothy 3.3: Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous. (μὴ πάροινον, μὴ πλήκτην, ἀλλὰ ἐπιεικῆ, ἄμαχον, ἀφιλάργυρον.)
  • 1 Timothy 6.14: That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. (τηρῆσαί σε τὴν ἐντολὴν ἄσπιλον ἀνεπίλημπτον μέχρι τῆς ἐπιφανείας τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.)
  • 2 Timothy 3.2-3: For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good. (ἔσονται γὰρ οἱ ἄνθρωποι φίλαυτοι, φιλάργυροι, ἀλαζόνες, ὑπερήφανοι, βλάσφημοι, γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς, ἀχάριστοι, ἀνόσιοι, ἄστοργοι, ἄσπονδοι, διάβολοι, ἀκρατεῖς, ἀνήμεροι, ἀφιλάγαθοι.)
  • Titus 3.3: For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. (Ἦμεν γάρ ποτε καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀνόητοι, ἀπειθεῖς, πλανώμενοι, δουλεύοντες ἐπιθυμίαις καὶ ἡδοναῖς ποικίλαις, ἐν κακίᾳ καὶ φθόνῳ διάγοντες, στυγητοί, μισοῦντες ἀλλήλους.)
  • Hebrews 7.3: Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. (ἀπάτωρ, ἀμήτωρ, ἀγενεαλόγητος, μήτε ἀρχὴν ἡμερῶν μήτε ζωῆς τέλος ἔχων.)
  • Hebrews 7.26: For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. (Τοιοῦτος γὰρ ἡμῖν καὶ ἔπρεπεν ἀρχιερεύς, ὅσιος, ἄκακος, ἀμίαντος, κεχωρισμένος ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν, καὶ ὑψηλότερος τῶν οὐρανῶν γενόμενος.)
  • James 3.17: But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (ἡ δὲ ἄνωθεν σοφία πρῶτον μὲν ἁγνή ἐστιν, ἔπειτα εἰρηνική, ἐπιεικής, εὐπειθής, μεστὴ ἐλέους καὶ καρπῶν ἀγαθῶν, ἀδιάκριτος, ἀνυπόκριτος.)
  • 12.24 (tbd)
Papyri Graecae Magicae (PGM), texts from Karl Preisendanz, ed. Papyri Graecae Magicae, vol. 1 (Leipzig: Tuebner, 1928), English translations are from Hans Dieter Benz, ed. The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986). I've altered the translations where conjunctions, absent in Greek, were added in English.
  • PGM I.165 (tr. E.N. O'Neil): boundless, undefiled, indescribable (ἀπέραντον, ἀμίαντον, ἀδιήγητον)
  • PGM IV.267 (tr. E.N. O'Neil, revised): obscure [literally unclear], irresistible (ἄδηλον, ἀμήχανον, where ἄδηλον is Kroll's conjecture for ΔΗΛΟΝ)
  • PGM IV.1063-1064 (tr. W.C. Grese, revised): unharmed, not plagued by ghosts, free from calamity, without terror (ἀσινῆ, ἀνειδωλόπληκτον, ἄπληγον, ἀθάμβητον)
  • PGM IV.1776 (tr. E.N. O'Neil): lawless, implacable, inexorable, invisible, bodiless (ἄνομε, ἀνίλαστε, ἀλιτάνευτε, ἀϊδῆ, ἀσώματε)
  • Fragment 8 Diels, line 17: Unthinkable, nameless (ἀνόητον ἀνώνυμον)
Paulus Silentarius
  • Greek Anthology 5.268.5: He sits unmoved, unshaken (ἀστεμφής ἀδόνητος ἐνέζεται)
  • ap. I. Bekker, Anecdota Graeca 344.29: Unmarried, unpaired, quick-tempered, inaccessible, not laughing, not conversing, opinionated (ἄγαμον ἀσύζυγον ὀξύμυθον ἀπρόσοδον / ἀγέλαστον ἀδιάλεκτον ἰδιογνώμονα)
  • ap. Pollux 3.48: Without child, without wife (ἄπαις ἀγύναικος)
  • Phaedrus 240a: Unmarried, childless, homeless (ἄγαμον, ἄπαιδα, ἄοικον)
  • Antigone 339: Imperishable, unwearied (ἄφθιτον ἀκαμάταν)
  • Antigone 876-877: Unwept, unloved, unwed (ἄκλαυτος ἄφιλος ἀνυμέναιος)
  • Antigone 1071: Bereft, without funeral rites, unholy (ἄμοιρον ἀκτέριστον ἀνόσιον)
  • Oedipus at Colonus 130-131: Without looking, without making a sound, without talking (ἀδέρκτως / ἀφώνως ἀλόγως)
  • Oedipus at Colonus 1220-1221: Without wedding song, without music, without dancing (ἀνυμέναιος / ἄλυρος ἄχορος)
  • Oedipus at Colonus 1236-1237: Powerless, unsociable old age without friends (ἀκρατὲς ἀπροσόμιλον / γῆρας ἄφιλον)
  • Women of Trachis 694: unspeakable, incomprehensible (ἄφραστον ἀξύμβλητον)
  • Fragment 386: Unapproachable, inexplicable (ἄπλατον ἀξύμβλητον)
  • ap. I. Bekker, Anecdota Graeca 401.16: Without force. Theopompus: Without breath, without sinews, without strength, without force (ἀνέντατος· Θεόπομπος· ἄπνους, ἄνευρος, ἀσθενής, ἀνέντατος.)
  • Cyropaedia 7.5.53: Unfed, without drink, unwashed (ἄσιτος ἄποτος ἀναπόνιπτος)

Latin Examples

  • 5.223 Without speech, in need (infans indigus)
  • Bacchides 612 (tr. Edward H. Sugden): Ungovernable, thoughtless (indomito incogitato)
  • Bacchides 614: Unlovable, without charm (inamabilis inlepidus)
  • Rudens 652: Without shame, unclean, utterly without modesty (impudens impurus inverecundissimus)
  • Trinummus 826 (tr. H.T. Riley): Unsightly, unendurable (immanem intolerandum)
Pliny the Younger
  • Letters 9.10.3: Disagreeable, unpleasant (inamabile inamoenum)
Rhetorica ad Herennium
  • 2.22.34: Without end, without limit (infinitae inmoderatae)
  • Hercules Oetaeus 297: Unthought of, unspeakable (incogitata infanda)
  • Hercules Oetaeus 1721: Idle, indolent (ignave iners)
  • Hercules Oetaeus 1741: Unmoved, unshaken (immotus inconcussus)
  • Medea 395: Monstrous, wicked (immane impium)
  • Phoenissae 223: Unspeakable, unchaste (nefandus incestificus)
  • Thyestes 176: Idle, indolent (ignave iners)
  • Annals 14.26: Unsullied, undefiled (intemeratus impollutus)
Velleius Paterculus
  • 2.11.1: Insatiable, uncontrollable (insatiabilis impotens)
  • Aeneid 3.658: Shapeless, unnatural (informe ingens)

English Examples

Matthew Arnold
  • Fragment of Chorus of a Dejaneira, line 28: Unworn, undebased, undecay'd
  • Merope 629-630: Unplumb'd, / unscaled, untrodden
W.H. Auden
  • Iceland Revisited, lines 1-3: Unwashed, unshat, / He was whisked from the plane / To a lunch in his honor.
  • At the Party, lines 1-2: Unrhymed, unrhythmical, the chatter goes: / Yet no one hears his own remarks as prose.
  • Darkness, line 71: Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless.
John Clare
  • Song (March 3, 1847; see the end of the third line of the third stanza):
    I would not be a wither'd leaf
    Twirled in an autumn sky
    Mine should not be a life so brief
    To fade and fall and die

    Nor would I be a wither'd flower
    Whose stalk was broke before
    The bud showed bloom in springs young hour
    Heart sicken'd at the core

    But I would be a happy thought
    With thy sweet sleep to lie
    And live unknown, unseen, unsought
    And keep my lonely joy

    Yes I would be a ray of light
    In the apple of thy eye
    And watch o'er thee the live long night
    In beauty, and in joy
Arthur Hugh Clough
  • ἐπὶ Λάτμῳ:
    As a lake its mirrored mountains
    At a moment, unregretting,
    Unresisting, unreclaiming,
    Without preface, without question,
    On the silent shifting levels
    Lets depart,
    Shows, effaces and replaces!
William Cowper
  • Olney Hymns 37 (Afflictions Sanctified by the World, line 9): Unafflicted, undismayed
Oliver Goldsmith
  • The Deserted Village 258: Unenvied, unmolested, unconfined
A.E. Housman
  • Last Poems, XL (Tell me not here, it needs not saying): Heartless, witless
Ben Jonson
  • Volpone, Act 3, Scene 3, line 476: Unmasked, unspirited, undone
James Joyce
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, chap. 3: Consciousness of place came ebbing back to him slowly over a vast tract of time unlit, unfelt, unlived.
Charles Lamb
  • Letter to Matilda Bentham (undated, probably early October 1815): Sabbathless, restless Satan
Hugh MacDiarmid
  • A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, line 270: Unbeen, unthocht, undune
John Milton
  • Paradise Lost 2.185: Unrespited, unpitied, unreprieved
  • Paradise Lost 3.231: Unprevented, unimplored, unsought
  • Paradise Lost 3.373: Immutable, immortal, infinite
  • Paradise Lost 5.245: Unadmonished, unforewarned
  • Paradise Lost 5.670: Unworshipped, unobeyed
  • Paradise Lost 5.898-899: Unmoved, unshaken, unseduced, unterrified
  • Paradise Lost 6.404: Unwearied, unobnoxious
  • Paradise Lost 10.254: Impassable, impervious
  • Paradise Regained 1.25: Unmarked, unknown
  • Paradise Regained 2.413: Unknown, unfriended
  • Paradise Regained 3.243: Irresolute, unhardy, unadvent'rous
  • Paradise Regained 3.429: Unhumbled, unrepentant, unreformed
  • Samson Agonistes 416-417: Ignoble, / unmanly, ignominious, infamous
  • Samson Agonistes 1364: Uncircumcised, unclean
  • Samson Agonistes 1424: Dishonorable, impure, unworthy
Hector Hugh Munro (Saki)
  • Down Pens: untroubled, unpunctuated
Ogden Nash
  • The Caterpillar (see last line):
    I find among the poems of Schiller
    No mention of the caterpillar,
    Nor can I find one anywhere
    In Petrarch or Baudelaire,
    So here I sit in extra session
    To give my personal impression.
    The caterpillar, as it's called,
    Is often hairy, seldom bald;
    It looks as if it never shaves;
    When it walks, it walks in waves;
    And from the cradle to the chrysalis
    It's utterly speechless, songless, whistleless.
John Norris (1657-1711)
  • The Choice, line 12: Like subterraneous streams, unheard, unknown
William Shakespeare
  • Richard III 3.6.9: Untainted, unexamined
Edmund Spenser
  • Faerie Queene Unbodied, unsoul'd, unheard, unseene
Laurence Sterne
  • Tristram Shandy, chap. 35: Unwiped, unappointed, unannealed
Algernon Charles Swinburne
  • Sapphics 73-74: Unassuaged, unheard of, / unbeloved, unseen
Edwin Way Teale
  • Journey Into Summer (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1960), p. 345: Unseen, unfelt, unappreciated
J.R.R. Tolkien,
  • Lord of the Rings, III/6:Unmarred, unstained is leaf and land / In Dwimordene, in Lórien / More fair than thoughts of Mortal Men.
William Wordsworth
  • The Prelude, III.141: Unknown, unthought of
  • The Prelude, VI.442: Unchastened, unsubdued, unawed, unraised