The objet petit a is also defined as the leftover, the remainder (Fr. reste), the remnant left behind by the introduction of the symbolic in the real.
The term '[[objet petit a]]' is translated as 'objet small a'', but it is normally left in the [[French]] at [[Lacan]]'s insistence.
He argues that it thus acquires "the status of an algebraic sign".
This is an instance of [[Lacan]]'s tendency, especially in his later writings, to use algebraic signs or '[[mathemes]]'.
This [[formalization]] is intended to guarantee the 'integral transmission' of [[psychoanalytic theory]].
The concept of ''[[objet petit a]]'' derives from [[Freud]]'s theory of the [[object]] and from [[Lacan]]'s own meditations on the theme of the [[other]]; there are some similarities between it and both [[Klein]]'s part-objects and [[Winnicott]]'s transitional object.
The ''a'' stands for ''autre'' ('other'), and the use of the lower case marks the distinction between this object and the '[[big Other]]' symbolized by the capital ''A''[''utre''].
Unlike the '[[big Other]]', ''[[objet petit a]]'' exists within a relationship with the [[ego]] and is described as belonging to the [[order]] of the [[imaginary]].
The earliest references to ''a'' appear in the 1950s, and it initially designates the [[ego]], with ''a'' designating the [[specular image]] of the [[mirror-phase]] and 'A' the [[unconscious]] or the [[discourse of the Other]].<ref>Lacan 1957-8</ref>
''[[Object petit a]]'' is imagined by the [[subject]] to be an [[object]] that can be separated from the [[body]] in such a way as to take on an [[existence]] of its own.
From the 1960s onwards, ''[[objet petit a]]'' comes to mean an [[object of desire]] rather than a concrete [[object]] that is actually sought by the [[drive]]s.
[[Lacan]] later describes it as an '[[object-cause]]', defined as any [[object of desire]] that sets the [[drive]]s in motion.
It can be a source of [[anxiety]] as well as a promise of [[pleasure]].
Rather than seeking to attain or possess it, the [[drive]]s endlessly circle around it.