aorist(redirected from aorists)
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[O.Fr., from Lat.,=time], in the grammar of many languages, a category of time distinctions expressed by any conjugated form of a verb. In Latin inflection the tense of a verb is indicated by a suffix that also indicates the verb's voice, mood, person, and number.
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a grammatical tense characteristic of several languages (Greek, Old Indo-European, Old Slavic, Old Russian, and others).
The aorist designates a completed action in the past—for example, the Old Slavic polozhikh b (I placed), as compared with the past imperfect tense, polagaakh b (I was placing). Inasmuch as the aorist expresses completed action, in those languages which have grammatical aspect it is most often formed from the verb stems of the perfective aspect. Aorists based on stems of the imperfective aspect designate a prolonged action. It is supposed that the meaning of the aorist as a past tense developed relatively late in the Indo-European languages and that originally the aorist form expressed an aspect designating in this instance a non-prolonged or instantaneous action regardless of tense. The term “aorist” is also used in certain languages to designate an aspect form which simply states an action without providing any indication of its length in time. For example, in aboriginal languages the aorist designates an action in process without any indication of the time of its completion.