A Edit

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This article is about the letter of the alphabet. For the English indefinite article, see . For other uses, see .

For , "A#" redirects here. For A-sharp, see .

Writing cursive forms of A

A ( , plural As, A's, as, a's or aes) is the first and the first in the . It is similar to the Ancient Greek letter , from which it derives. The upper-case version consists of the two slanting sides of a triangle, crossed in the middle by a horizontal bar. The lower-case version can be written in two forms: the double-storey a and single-storey ɑ. The latter is commonly used in handwriting and fonts based on it, especially fonts intended to be read by children, and is also found in .

Contents Edit

History Edit

Egyptian   Cretan Phoenician





800–700 BC



Latin 300 AD


The earliest certain ancestor of "A" is (also written 'aleph), the first letter of the , which consisted entirely of (for that reason, it is also called an to distinguish it from a true ). In turn, the ancestor of aleph may have been a of an ox head in influenced by , styled as a triangular head with two horns extended.

In 1600 B.C.E., the Phoenician alphabet letter had a linear form that served as the base for some later forms. Its name is thought to have corresponded closely to the or aleph.



Another Blackletter A 

Modern Roman A

Modern Italic A

Modern script A

When the adopted the alphabet, they had no use for a letter to represent the —the consonant sound that the letter denoted in and other , and that was the first of the Phoenician pronunciation of the letter—so they used their version of the sign to represent the vowel /a/, and called it by the similar name of . In the earliest Greek inscriptions after the , dating to the 8th century BC, the letter rests upon its side, but in the 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 brought the Greek alphabet to their civilization in the and left the letter unchanged. The Romans later adopted the to write the , and the resulting letter was preserved in the that would come to be used to write many languages, including English.

Typographic variants Edit

Different of the lowercase letter A.

During Roman times, there were many variant forms of the letter "A". First was the monumental or lapidary style, which was used when inscribing on stone or other "permanent" mediums. There was also a style used for everyday or utilitarian writing, which was done on more perishable surfaces. Due to the "perishable" nature of these surfaces, there are not as many examples of this style as there are of the monumental, but there are still many surviving examples of different types of cursive, such as cursive, cursive, and semicursive minuscule. Variants also existed that were intermediate between the monumental and cursive styles. The known variants include the early , the uncial, and the later semi-uncial.

Typographic variants include a double-storey a and single-storey ɑ.

At the end of the (5th century AD), several variants of the cursive minuscule developed through Western Europe. Among these were the semicursive minuscule of , the in France, the in Spain, and the or Anglo-Irish semi-uncial or Anglo-Saxon majuscule, of Great Britain. By the 9th century, the , which was very similar to the present-day form, was the principal form used in book-making, before the advent of the printing press. This form was derived through a combining of prior forms.

15th-century Italy saw the formation of the two main variants that are known today. These variants, the Italic and Roman forms, were derived from the Caroline Script version. The Italic form, also called script a, is used in most current and consists of a circle and vertical stroke. This slowly developed from the fifth-century form resembling the Greek letter in the hands of medieval Irish and English writers. The Roman form is used in most printed material; it consists of a small loop with an arc over it ("a"). 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 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.

is commonly used to mark emphasis or more generally to distinguish one part of a text from the rest (set in Roman type). There are some other cases aside from italic type where script a ("ɑ"), also called , is used in contrast with Latin "a" (such as in the ).

Use in writing systems Edit

English Edit

Further information:

In modern , the letter ⟨a⟩ represents at least seven different vowel sounds:

  • the /æ/ as in pad;
  • the /ɑː/ as in father, which is closer to its original Latin and Greek sound;
  • the /eɪ/ as in ace and major (usually when ⟨a⟩ is followed by one, or occasionally two, consonants and then another vowel letter) – this results from followed by the ;
  • the modified form of the above sound that occurs , as in square and Mary;
  • the rounded vowel of water;
  • the shorter rounded vowel (not present in ) in was and what;
  • a , in many unstressed syllables, as in about, comma, solar.

The double ⟨aa⟩ sequence does not occur in native English words, but is found in some words derived from foreign languages such as Aaron and . However, ⟨a⟩ occurs in , all with their own sound or sounds, particularly ⟨ai⟩, ⟨au⟩, ⟨aw⟩, ⟨ay⟩, ⟨ea⟩ and ⟨oa⟩.

⟨a⟩ is the third-most-commonly used letter in English (after ⟨e⟩ and ⟨t⟩), and the second most common in Spanish and French. In one study, on average, about 3.68% of letters used in English texts tend to be ⟨a⟩, while the number is 6.22% in Spanish and 3.95% in French.

Other languages Edit

In most languages that use the Latin alphabet, ⟨a⟩ denotes an open unrounded vowel, such as //, //, or //. An exception is , in which ⟨a⟩ (and the glyph ) stands for a /e/.

Other systems Edit

In phonetic and phonemic notation:

  • in the , ⟨a⟩ is used for the , ⟨ä⟩ is used for the , and ⟨ɑ⟩ is used for the .
  • in , ⟨a⟩ is used for the and ⟨A⟩ is used for the .

Other uses Edit

Main article:

In , the letter "A" along with other letters at the beginning of the alphabet is used to represent known quantities, whereas the letters at the end of the alphabet (x,y,z) are used to denote unknown quantities.

In , capital A, B, C etc. are used to denote , , , etc. A capital A is also typically used as one of the letters to represent an angle in a , the lowercase a representing the side opposite angle A.

"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; celebrities, etc. Such associations can have a effect, as exposure to the letter A has been found to improve performance, when compared with other letters.

Finally, the letter A is used to denote size, as in a narrow size shoe, or a small cup size in a .

Related characters Edit

Descendants and related characters in the Latin alphabet Edit

  • Æ æ : ligature
  • A with : Ā̀ ā̀ Ą́ ą́ Ą̃ ą̃
  • symbols related to A (the only uses lowercase, but uppercase forms are used in some other writing systems):
    • Ɑ ɑ : , which represents an in the IPA
    • Ɐ ɐ : , which represents a in the IPA
    • Λ ʌ : (also called a wedge, a caret, or a hat), which represents an in the IPA
    • Ɒ ɒ : Turned script A, which represents an in the IPA
    • ᴀ : Small capital A, an used to represent various sounds (mainly open vowels)

Derived signs, symbols and abbreviations Edit

  • ª : an
  • Å : sign
  • ∀ : a turned capital letter A, used in to specify ("for all")
  • @ :
  • ₳ :

Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets Edit

  • 𐤀 : letter , from which the following symbols originally derive
    • Α α : letter , from which the following letters derive
      • А а : letter
      • Ⲁ ⲁ : letter Alpha
      • 𐌀 : A, which is the ancestor of modern Latin A
        • ᚨ : letter , which probably derives from old Italic A
      • 𐌰 : letter aza/asks

Computing codes Edit

Character A a
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex
65 U+0041 97 U+0061
65 41 97 61
A A a a
family 193 C1 129 81
65 41 97 61
Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations Edit


Notes Edit

  1. Jump up ^

Footnotes Edit

  1. ^ Jump up to: Simpson & Weiner 1989
  2. Jump up ^McCarter 1974
  3. ^ Jump up to: Hoiberg 2010
  4. ^ Jump up to: Hall-Quest 1997
  5. ^ Jump up to: Diringer 2000
  6. Jump up ^Gelb & Whiting 1998
  7. Jump up ^Anon 2004
  8. Jump up ^Anon 2006
  9. Jump up ^British Psychological Society 2010

References Edit

External links Edit

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