A

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A (play /ˈ/; named a, plural aes)[1] is the first letter and a vowel in the basic modern Latin alphabet. It is similar to the Ancient Greek letter Alpha, from which it derives.

Contents

Origins

"A" can be traced to a pictogram of an ox head in Egyptian hieroglyph or the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet.[2]

In 1600 B.C. the Phoenician alphabet's letter had a linear form that served as the base for some later forms. Its name must have corresponded closely to the Hebrew or Arabic aleph.

When the Ancient Greeks adopted the alphabet, they had no use for the glottal stop that the letter had denoted in Phoenician and other Semitic languages, so they used the sign to represent the vowel /a/, and kept its name with a minor change (alpha). In the earliest Greek inscriptions after the Greek Dark Ages, dating to the 8th century BC, the letter rests upon its side, but in the Greek alphabet 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 and left the letter unchanged. The Romans later adopted the Etruscan alphabet to write the Latin language, and the resulting letter was preserved in the modern Latin alphabet used to write many languages, including English.

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