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A

A

Overview
A is the first letter
Letter (alphabet)
A letter is a grapheme in an alphabetic system of writing, such as the Greek alphabet and its descendants. Letters compose phonemes and each phoneme represents a phone in the spoken form of the language....

 and a vowel
Vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

 in the basic modern Latin alphabet
Basic modern Latin alphabet
The International Organization for Standardization basic Latin alphabet consists of the following 26 letters:By the 1960s it became apparent to the computer and telecommunications industries in the First World that a non-proprietary method of encoding characters was needed...

. It is similar to the Ancient Greek letter Alpha
Alpha
Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. Alpha or ALPHA may also refer to:-Science:*Alpha , the highest ranking individuals in a community of social animals...

, from which it derives.

The earliest certain ancestor of "A" is aleph
Aleph
* Aleph or Alef is the first letter of the Semitic abjads descended from Proto-Canaanite, Arabic alphabet, Phoenician alphabet, Hebrew alphabet, Syriac alphabet-People:*Aleph , an Italo disco artist and alias of Dave Rodgers...

 (also called 'aleph), the first letter of the Phoenician alphabet
Phoenician alphabet
The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, was a non-pictographic consonantal alphabet, or abjad. It was used for the writing of Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the civilization of Phoenicia...

 (which, by consisting entirely of consonant
Consonant
In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of the tongue; , pronounced in the throat; and ,...

s, is an abjad
Abjad
An abjad is a type of writing system in which each symbol always or usually stands for a consonant; the reader must supply the appropriate vowel....

 rather than a true alphabet
Alphabet
An alphabet is a standard set of letters—basic written symbols or graphemes—each of which represents a phoneme in a spoken language, either as it exists now or as it was in the past. There are other systems, such as logographies, in which each character represents a word, morpheme, or semantic...

). In turn, the origin of aleph may have been a pictogram
Pictogram
A pictograph, also called pictogram or pictogramme is an ideogram that conveys its meaning through its pictorial resemblance to a physical object. Pictographs are often used in writing and graphic systems in which the characters are to considerable extent pictorial in appearance.Pictography is a...

 of an ox
Ox
An ox , also known as a bullock in Australia, New Zealand and India, is a bovine trained as a draft animal. Oxen are commonly castrated adult male cattle; castration makes the animals more tractable...

 head in Egyptian hieroglyphs.

In 1600 B.C., the Phoenician alphabet
Phoenician alphabet
The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, was a non-pictographic consonantal alphabet, or abjad. It was used for the writing of Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the civilization of Phoenicia...

's letter had a linear form that served as the base for some later forms. Its name must have corresponded closely to the Hebrew
Hebrew alphabet
The Hebrew alphabet , known variously by scholars as the Jewish script, square script, block script, or more historically, the Assyrian script, is used in the writing of the Hebrew language, as well as other Jewish languages, most notably Yiddish, Ladino, and Judeo-Arabic. There have been two...

 or Arabic
Arabic alphabet
The Arabic alphabet or Arabic abjad is the Arabic script as it is codified for writing the Arabic language. It is written from right to left, in a cursive style, and includes 28 letters. Because letters usually stand for consonants, it is classified as an abjad.-Consonants:The Arabic alphabet has...

 aleph
Aleph
* Aleph or Alef is the first letter of the Semitic abjads descended from Proto-Canaanite, Arabic alphabet, Phoenician alphabet, Hebrew alphabet, Syriac alphabet-People:*Aleph , an Italo disco artist and alias of Dave Rodgers...

.

When the ancient Greeks
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 adopted the alphabet, they had no use for the glottal stop
Glottal stop
The glottal stop, or more fully, the voiceless glottal plosive, is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. In English, the feature is represented, for example, by the hyphen in uh-oh! and by the apostrophe or [[ʻokina]] in Hawaii among those using a preservative pronunciation of...

—the first phoneme
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

 of the Phoenician pronunciation of the letter, and the sound that the letter denoted in Phoenician
Phoenician languages
Phoenician was a language originally spoken in the coastal region then called "Canaan" in Phoenician, Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic, "Phoenicia" in Greek and Latin, and "Pūt" in Ancient Egyptian. Phoenician is a Semitic language of the Canaanite subgroup; its closest living relative is Hebrew, to...

 and other Semitic languages
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

—so they used an adaptation of the sign to represent the vowel /a/, and gave it the similar name of alpha
Alpha (letter)
Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 1. It was derived from the Phoenician letter Aleph...

.
Discussion
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Encyclopedia
A is the first letter
Letter (alphabet)
A letter is a grapheme in an alphabetic system of writing, such as the Greek alphabet and its descendants. Letters compose phonemes and each phoneme represents a phone in the spoken form of the language....

 and a vowel
Vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

 in the basic modern Latin alphabet
Basic modern Latin alphabet
The International Organization for Standardization basic Latin alphabet consists of the following 26 letters:By the 1960s it became apparent to the computer and telecommunications industries in the First World that a non-proprietary method of encoding characters was needed...

. It is similar to the Ancient Greek letter Alpha
Alpha
Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. Alpha or ALPHA may also refer to:-Science:*Alpha , the highest ranking individuals in a community of social animals...

, from which it derives.

Origins


The earliest certain ancestor of "A" is aleph
Aleph
* Aleph or Alef is the first letter of the Semitic abjads descended from Proto-Canaanite, Arabic alphabet, Phoenician alphabet, Hebrew alphabet, Syriac alphabet-People:*Aleph , an Italo disco artist and alias of Dave Rodgers...

 (also called 'aleph), the first letter of the Phoenician alphabet
Phoenician alphabet
The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, was a non-pictographic consonantal alphabet, or abjad. It was used for the writing of Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the civilization of Phoenicia...

 (which, by consisting entirely of consonant
Consonant
In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of the tongue; , pronounced in the throat; and ,...

s, is an abjad
Abjad
An abjad is a type of writing system in which each symbol always or usually stands for a consonant; the reader must supply the appropriate vowel....

 rather than a true alphabet
Alphabet
An alphabet is a standard set of letters—basic written symbols or graphemes—each of which represents a phoneme in a spoken language, either as it exists now or as it was in the past. There are other systems, such as logographies, in which each character represents a word, morpheme, or semantic...

). In turn, the origin of aleph may have been a pictogram
Pictogram
A pictograph, also called pictogram or pictogramme is an ideogram that conveys its meaning through its pictorial resemblance to a physical object. Pictographs are often used in writing and graphic systems in which the characters are to considerable extent pictorial in appearance.Pictography is a...

 of an ox
Ox
An ox , also known as a bullock in Australia, New Zealand and India, is a bovine trained as a draft animal. Oxen are commonly castrated adult male cattle; castration makes the animals more tractable...

 head in Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Egyptian Phoenician
aleph
Aleph
* Aleph or Alef is the first letter of the Semitic abjads descended from Proto-Canaanite, Arabic alphabet, Phoenician alphabet, Hebrew alphabet, Syriac alphabet-People:*Aleph , an Italo disco artist and alias of Dave Rodgers...

Greek
Alpha
Alpha (letter)
Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 1. It was derived from the Phoenician letter Aleph...

Etruscan
A
Roman/Cyrillic
A


In 1600 B.C., the Phoenician alphabet
Phoenician alphabet
The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, was a non-pictographic consonantal alphabet, or abjad. It was used for the writing of Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the civilization of Phoenicia...

's letter had a linear form that served as the base for some later forms. Its name must have corresponded closely to the Hebrew
Hebrew alphabet
The Hebrew alphabet , known variously by scholars as the Jewish script, square script, block script, or more historically, the Assyrian script, is used in the writing of the Hebrew language, as well as other Jewish languages, most notably Yiddish, Ladino, and Judeo-Arabic. There have been two...

 or Arabic
Arabic alphabet
The Arabic alphabet or Arabic abjad is the Arabic script as it is codified for writing the Arabic language. It is written from right to left, in a cursive style, and includes 28 letters. Because letters usually stand for consonants, it is classified as an abjad.-Consonants:The Arabic alphabet has...

 aleph
Aleph
* Aleph or Alef is the first letter of the Semitic abjads descended from Proto-Canaanite, Arabic alphabet, Phoenician alphabet, Hebrew alphabet, Syriac alphabet-People:*Aleph , an Italo disco artist and alias of Dave Rodgers...

.

Blackletter
Blackletter
Blackletter, also known as Gothic script, Gothic minuscule, or Textura, was a script used throughout Western Europe from approximately 1150 to well into the 17th century. It continued to be used for the German language until the 20th century. Fraktur is a notable script of this type, and sometimes...

 A

Uncial
Uncial
Uncial is a majuscule script commonly used from the 3rd to 8th centuries AD by Latin and Greek scribes. Uncial letters are written in either Greek, Latin, or Gothic.-Development:...

 A

Another Blackletter A 

Modern Roman A

Modern Italic A

Modern Script A

When the ancient Greeks
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 adopted the alphabet, they had no use for the glottal stop
Glottal stop
The glottal stop, or more fully, the voiceless glottal plosive, is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. In English, the feature is represented, for example, by the hyphen in uh-oh! and by the apostrophe or [[ʻokina]] in Hawaii among those using a preservative pronunciation of...

—the first phoneme
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

 of the Phoenician pronunciation of the letter, and the sound that the letter denoted in Phoenician
Phoenician languages
Phoenician was a language originally spoken in the coastal region then called "Canaan" in Phoenician, Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic, "Phoenicia" in Greek and Latin, and "Pūt" in Ancient Egyptian. Phoenician is a Semitic language of the Canaanite subgroup; its closest living relative is Hebrew, to...

 and other Semitic languages
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

—so they used an adaptation of the sign to represent the vowel /a/, and gave it the similar name of alpha
Alpha (letter)
Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 1. It was derived from the Phoenician letter Aleph...

. In the earliest Greek inscriptions after the Greek Dark Ages
Greek Dark Ages
The Greek Dark Age or Ages also known as Geometric or Homeric Age are terms which have regularly been used to refer to the period of Greek history from the presumed Dorian invasion and end of the Mycenaean Palatial civilization around 1200 BC, to the first signs of the Greek city-states in the 9th...

, dating to the 8th century BC, the letter rests upon its side, but in the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

 of later times it generally resembles the modern capital letter, although many local varieties can be distinguished by the shortening of one leg, or by the angle at which the cross line is set.

The Etruscans brought the Greek alphabet to their civilization in the Italian Peninsula
Italian Peninsula
The Italian Peninsula or Apennine Peninsula is one of the three large peninsulas of Southern Europe , spanning from the Po Valley in the north to the central Mediterranean Sea in the south. The peninsula's shape gives it the nickname Lo Stivale...

 and left the letter unchanged. The Romans later adopted the Etruscan alphabet
Old Italic alphabet
Old Italic refers to several now extinct alphabet systems used on the Italian Peninsula in ancient times for various Indo-European languages and non-Indo-European languages...

 to write the Latin language, and the resulting letter was preserved in the Latin alphabet used to write many languages, including English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

.


The letter has two minuscule (lower-case) forms. The form used in most current handwriting
Handwriting
Handwriting is a person's particular & individual style of writing with pen or pencil, which contrasts with "Hand" which is an impersonal and formalised writing style in several historical varieties...

 consists of a circle and vertical stroke , called Latin alpha
Latin alpha
Latin alpha or script a is a letter of the Latin alphabet, based on one lowercase form of a, or on the Greek lowercase alpha...

 or "script a". This slowly developed from the fifth-century form resembling the Greek letter tau
Tau
Tau is the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 300.The name in English is pronounced , but in modern Greek it is...

 in the hands of dark-age Irish and English writers. Most printed material uses a form consisting of a small loop with an arc over it . Both derive from the majuscule (capital) form. In Greek handwriting, it was common to join the left leg and horizontal stroke into a single loop, as demonstrated by the Uncial version shown. Many fonts then made the right leg vertical. In some of these, the serif
Serif
In typography, serifs are semi-structural details on the ends of some of the strokes that make up letters and symbols. A typeface with serifs is called a serif typeface . A typeface without serifs is called sans serif or sans-serif, from the French sans, meaning “without”...

 that began the right leg stroke developed into an arc, resulting in the printed form, while in others it was dropped, resulting in the modern handwritten form.

Usage



The letter A currently represents six different vowel sounds. In English, "a" by itself frequently denotes the near-open front unrounded vowel (/æ/) as in pad; the open back unrounded vowel (/ɑː/) as in father, its original, Latin and Greek, sound; a closer, further fronted sound as in "hare", which developed as the sound progressed from "father" to "ace"; in concert with a later orthographic vowel, the diphthong /eɪ/ as in ace and major, due to effects of the great vowel shift
Great Vowel Shift
The Great Vowel Shift was a major change in the pronunciation of the English language that took place in England between 1350 and 1500.The Great Vowel Shift was first studied by Otto Jespersen , a Danish linguist and Anglicist, who coined the term....

; the more rounded form in "water" or its closely related cousin, found in "was".

In most other languages that use the Latin alphabet, "a" denotes an open front unrounded vowel (/a/). In the International Phonetic Alphabet, variants of "a" denote various vowel
Vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

s. In X-SAMPA
X-SAMPA
The Extended Speech Assessment Methods Phonetic Alphabet is a variant of SAMPA developed in 1995 by John C. Wells, professor of phonetics at the University of London. It is designed to unify the individual language SAMPA alphabets, and extend SAMPA to cover the entire range of characters in the...

, capital "A" denotes the open back unrounded vowel and lowercase "a" denotes the open front unrounded vowel.

"A" is the third most commonly used letter in English, and the second most common in Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 and French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

. In one study, on average, about 3.68% of letters used in English tend to be ⟨a⟩, while the number is 6.22% in Spanish and 3.95% in French.

"A" is often used to denote something or someone of a better or more prestigious quality or status: A-, A or A+, the best grade that can be assigned by teachers for students' schoolwork; A grade for clean restaurants; A-List
A-list
A-list is a term that alludes to major movie stars, or the most bankable in the Hollywood film industry.The A-list is part of a larger guide called The Hot List that has become an industry-standard guide in Hollywood...

 celebrities, etc. Such associations can have a motivating
Motivation
Motivation is the driving force by which humans achieve their goals. Motivation is said to be intrinsic or extrinsic. The term is generally used for humans but it can also be used to describe the causes for animal behavior as well. This article refers to human motivation...

 effect as exposure to the letter A has been found to improve performance, when compared with other letters.

Related letters and other similar characters


  • Α α : Greek letter Alpha
    Alpha (letter)
    Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 1. It was derived from the Phoenician letter Aleph...

  • А а : Cyrillic letter A
    A (Cyrillic)
    A is a letter of the Cyrillic alphabet.It commonly represents an open front unrounded vowel , like the pronunciation of ⟨a⟩ in "father".The Cyrillic letter A is romanized using the Latin letter A.-History:...

     : Latin letter Alpha / Script A : a turned lowercase letter A, used by the International Phonetic Alphabet for the near-open central vowel : a turned capital letter A, used in predicate logic to specify universal quantification
    Universal quantification
    In predicate logic, universal quantification formalizes the notion that something is true for everything, or every relevant thing....

  • ª : an ordinal indicator
    Ordinal indicator
    In written languages, an ordinal indicator is a sign adjacent to a numeral denoting that it is an ordinal number, rather than a cardinal number. The exact sign used varies in different languages.- English :...

  • Æ æ : Latin letter Æ
    Æ
    Æ is a grapheme formed from the letters a and e. Originally a ligature representing a Latin diphthong, it has been promoted to the full status of a letter in the alphabets of some languages, including Danish, Faroese, Norwegian and Icelandic...


Computing codes

character A a
Unicode name LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A LATIN SMALL LETTER A
character encoding decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode
Unicode
Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...

 
65 0041 97 0061
UTF-8
UTF-8
UTF-8 is a multibyte character encoding for Unicode. Like UTF-16 and UTF-32, UTF-8 can represent every character in the Unicode character set. Unlike them, it is backward-compatible with ASCII and avoids the complications of endianness and byte order marks...

 
65 41 97 61
Numeric character reference
Numeric character reference
A numeric character reference is a common markup construct used in SGML and other SGML-related markup languages such as HTML and XML. It consists of a short sequence of characters that, in turn, represent a single character from the Universal Character Set of Unicode...

 
A A a a
EBCDIC
EBCDIC
Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code is an 8-bit character encoding used mainly on IBM mainframe and IBM midrange computer operating systems....

 family
193 C1 129 81
ASCII
ASCII
The American Standard Code for Information Interchange is a character-encoding scheme based on the ordering of the English alphabet. ASCII codes represent text in computers, communications equipment, and other devices that use text...

1
65 41 97 61


1 and all encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

External links