|Use in other languages|
Alpha /ˈælfə/ (uppercase Α, lowercase α; Ancient Greek: ἄλφα, álpha, or Greek: άλφα, romanized: álfa) is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals, it has a value of one. Alpha is derived from the Phoenician letter aleph , which is the West Semitic word for "ox". Letters that arose from alpha include the Latin letter A and the Cyrillic letter А.
In Ancient Greek, alpha was pronounced [a] and could be either phonemically long ([aː]) or short ([a]). Where there is ambiguity, long and short alpha are sometimes written with a macron and breve today: Ᾱᾱ, Ᾰᾰ.
- ὥρα = ὥρᾱ hōrā Greek pronunciation: [hɔ́ːraː] "a time"
- γλῶσσα = γλῶσσᾰ glôssa Greek pronunciation: [ɡlɔ̂ːssa] "tongue"
In Modern Greek, vowel length has been lost, and all instances of alpha simply represent the open front unrounded vowel IPA: [a].
In the polytonic orthography of Greek, alpha, like other vowel letters, can occur with several diacritic marks: any of three accent symbols (ά, ὰ, ᾶ), and either of two breathing marks (ἁ, ἀ), as well as combinations of these. It can also combine with the iota subscript (ᾳ).
In the Attic–Ionic dialect of Ancient Greek, long alpha [aː] fronted to [ɛː] (eta). In Ionic, the shift took place in all positions. In Attic, the shift did not take place after epsilon, iota, and rho (ε, ι, ρ; e, i, r). In Doric and Aeolic, long alpha is preserved in all positions.
- Doric, Aeolic, Attic χώρᾱ chṓrā – Ionic χώρη chṓrē, "country"
- Doric, Aeolic φᾱ́μᾱ phā́mā – Attic, Ionic φήμη phḗmē, "report"
Privative a is the Ancient Greek prefix ἀ- or ἀν- a-, an-, added to words to negate them. It originates from the Proto-Indo-European *n̥- (syllabic nasal) and is cognate with English un-.
Copulative a is the Greek prefix ἁ- or ἀ- ha-, a-. It comes from Proto-Indo-European *sm̥.
Mathematics and science
The letter alpha represents various concepts in physics and chemistry, including alpha radiation, angular acceleration, alpha particles, alpha carbon and strength of electromagnetic interaction (as fine-structure constant). Alpha also stands for thermal expansion coefficient of a compound in physical chemistry. It is also commonly used in mathematics in algebraic solutions representing quantities such as angles. Furthermore, in mathematics, the letter alpha is used to denote the area underneath a normal curve in statistics to denote significance level when proving null and alternative hypotheses. In ethology, it is used to name the dominant individual in a group of animals. In aerodynamics, the letter is used as a symbol for the angle of attack of an aircraft and the word "alpha" is used as a synonym for this property. In mathematical logic, α is sometimes used as a placeholder for ordinal numbers.
The proportionality operator "∝" (in Unicode: U+221D) is sometimes mistaken for alpha.
The uppercase letter alpha is not generally used as a symbol because it tends to be rendered identically to the uppercase Latin A.
International Phonetic Alphabet
In the International Phonetic Alphabet, the letter ɑ, which looks similar to the lower-case alpha, represents the open back unrounded vowel.
History and symbolism
This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2021)
The Phoenician alphabet was adopted for Greek in the early 8th century BC, perhaps in Euboea. The majority of the letters of the Phoenician alphabet were adopted into Greek with much the same sounds as they had had in Phoenician, but ʼāleph, the Phoenician letter representing the glottal stop [ʔ], was adopted as representing the vowel [a]; similarly, hē [h] and ʽayin [ʕ] are Phoenician consonants that became Greek vowels, epsilon [e] and omicron [o], respectively.
Plutarch, in Moralia, presents a discussion on why the letter alpha stands first in the alphabet. Ammonius asks Plutarch what he, being a Boeotian, has to say for Cadmus, the Phoenician who reputedly settled in Thebes and introduced the alphabet to Greece, placing alpha first because it is the Phoenician name for ox—which, unlike Hesiod, the Phoenicians considered not the second or third, but the first of all necessities. "Nothing at all," Plutarch replied. He then added that he would rather be assisted by Lamprias, his own grandfather, than by Dionysus' grandfather, i.e. Cadmus. For Lamprias had said that the first articulate sound made is "alpha", because it is very plain and simple—the air coming off the mouth does not require any motion of the tongue—and therefore this is the first sound that children make.
According to Plutarch's natural order of attribution of the vowels to the planets, alpha was connected with the Moon.
Alpha and Omega
As the first letter of the alphabet, Alpha as a Greek numeral came to represent the number 1. Therefore, Alpha, both as a symbol and term, is used to refer to the "first", or "primary", or "principal" (most significant) occurrence or status of a thing.
The New Testament has God declaring himself to be the "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." (Revelation 22:13, KJV, and see also 1:8).[non-primary source needed]
Consequently, the term "alpha" has also come to be used to denote "primary" position in social hierarchy, examples being "alpha males" or pack leaders.
- Greek alpha / Coptic alfa
|Unicode name||GREEK CAPITAL LETTER ALPHA||GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA||COPTIC CAPITAL LETTER ALFA||COPTIC SMALL LETTER ALFA|
|UTF-8||206 145||CE 91||206 177||CE B1||226 178 128||E2 B2 80||226 178 129||E2 B2 81|
|Numeric character reference||Α
|Named character reference||Α||α|
For accented Greek characters, see Greek diacritics: Computer encoding.
|Unicode name||LATIN CAPITAL LETTER ALPHA||LATIN SMALL LETTER ALPHA||LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED ALPHA||LATIN SMALL LETTER ALPHA
WITH RETROFLEX HOOK
SMALL TURNED ALPHA
|UTF-8||226 177 173||E2 B1 AD||201 145||C9 91||201 146||C9 92||225 182 144||E1 B6 90||225 181 133||E1 B5 85||225 182 155||E1 B6 9B|
|Numeric character reference||Ɑ
- Mathematical / Technical alpha
|Unicode name||APL FUNCTIONAL SYMBOL ALPHA||APL FUNCTIONAL SYMBOL
|UTF-8||226 141 186||E2 8D BA||226 141 182||E2 8D B6||240 157 154 168||F0 9D 9A A8||240 157 155 130||F0 9D 9B 82||240 157 155 162||F0 9D 9B A2||240 157 155 188||F0 9D 9B BC|
|UTF-16||9082||237A||9078||2376||55349 57000||D835 DEA8||55349 57026||D835 DEC2||55349 57058||D835 DEE2||55349 57084||D835 DEFC|
|Numeric character reference||⍺
|Unicode name||MATHEMATICAL BOLD ITALIC
|MATHEMATICAL BOLD ITALIC
BOLD CAPITAL ALPHA
BOLD SMALL ALPHA
BOLD ITALIC CAPITAL ALPHA
BOLD ITALIC SMALL ALPHA
|UTF-8||240 157 156 156||F0 9D 9C 9C||240 157 156 182||F0 9D 9C B6||240 157 157 150||F0 9D 9D 96||240 157 157 176||F0 9D 9D B0||240 157 158 144||F0 9D 9E 90||240 157 158 170||F0 9D 9E AA|
|UTF-16||55349 57116||D835 DF1C||55349 57142||D835 DF36||55349 57174||D835 DF56||55349 57200||D835 DF70||55349 57232||D835 DF90||55349 57258||D835 DFAA|
|Numeric character reference||𝜜
- ^ "alpha". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
- ^ Brookes, I. (2004). Chamber Concise Dictionary. Allied Pub (p) Limited. p. 30. ISBN 978-81-86062-36-4. Archived from the original on 11 June 2022. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
- ^ Herbert Weir Smyth. Greek grammar for colleges. paragraph 30 Archived 20 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine and note Archived 13 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^ "Chapter 5: Analysing the Data Part II : Inferential Statistics". Research Methods and Statistics PESS202 Lecture and Commentary Notes. Archived from the original on 22 August 2011.
- ^ The date of the earliest inscribed objects; A.W. Johnston, "The alphabet", in N. Stampolidis and V. Karageorghis, eds, Sea Routes from Sidon to Huelva: Interconnections in the Mediterranean 2003:263-76, summarizes the present scholarship on the dating.
- ^ Symposiacs, Book IX, questions II & III On-line text Archived 13 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine at Adelaide library
- ^ Hesiod, in Works and Days (see on Perseus Project Archived 17 January 2021 at the Wayback Machine), advises the early Greek farmers, "First of all, get a house, then a woman and third, an ox for the plough."
- ^ "Character Encodings". Archived from the original on 1 August 2019. Retrieved 14 January 2013.