Alpha (uppercase , lowercase ; grc, ἄλφα, ''álpha'', modern pronunciation ''álfa'') is the first of the . In the system of , it has a value of 1. It is derived from the letter - an . Letters that arose from alpha include the and the letter . In English, the noun "alpha" is used as a synonym for "beginning", or "first" (in a series), reflecting its Greek roots.



In , alpha was pronounced and could be either long ( ː or short ( . Where there is ambiguity, long and short alpha are sometimes written with a and today: Ᾱᾱ, Ᾰᾰ. * = ὥρᾱ ''hōrā'' "a time" * = γλῶσσᾰ ''glôssa'' "tongue" In , has been lost, and all instances of alpha simply represent . In the orthography of Greek, alpha, like other vowel letters, can occur with several diacritic marks: any of three accent symbols (), and either of two breathing marks (), as well as combinations of these. It can also combine with the ().

Greek grammar

In the – dialect of Ancient Greek, long alpha fronted to (). In Ionic, the shift took place in all positions. In Attic, the shift did not take place after , , and (ε, ι, ρ; ''e'', ''i'', ''r''). In and , long alpha is preserved in all positions. *Doric, Aeolic, Attic ''chṓrā'' — Ionic ''chṓrē, "country" *Doric, Aeolic ''phā́mā'' — Attic, Ionic ''phḗmē, "report" is the prefix ἀ- or ἀν- ''a-'', ''an-'', added to words to negate them. It originates from the *' ( nasal) and is with English ''un-''. is the Greek prefix ἁ- or ἀ- ''ha-'', ''a-''. It comes from Proto-Indo-European *'.

Mathematics and science

The letter alpha represents various concepts in and , including , , s, and strength of (as ). Alpha also stands for of a in . It is also commonly used in in representing quantities such as angles. Furthermore, in mathematics, the letter alpha is used to denote the area underneath a in to denote when proving and . In ethology, it is used to name the in a group of animals. In aerodynamics, the letter is used as a symbol for the of an aircraft and the word "alpha" is used as a synonym for this property. The proportionality operator "" (in : 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 .

International Phonetic Alphabet

In the , the letter ɑ, which looks similar to the lower-case alpha, represents the .

History and symbolism


The was adopted for Greek in the early 8th century BC, perhaps in . 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 ', the Phoenician letter representing the glottal stop , was adopted as representing the vowel ; similarly, ' and ' are Phoenician consonants that became Greek vowels, and , respectively.


, in ', presents a discussion on why the letter alpha stands first in the alphabet. Ammonius asks Plutarch what he, being a n, has to say for , the n who reputedly settled in and introduced the alphabet to Greece, placing ''alpha'' first because it is the Phoenician name for —which, unlike , 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 , his own grandfather, than by ' 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 s to the s, alpha was connected with the .

Alpha and Omega

As the first letter of the alphabet, Alpha as a came to represent the number . 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 ", the beginning and the end, the first and the last." ( 22:13, KJV, and see also 1:8). Consequently, the term "alpha" has also come to be used to denote "primary" position in social hierarchy, examples being "s" or pack leaders.

Computer encodings

* Greek alpha / Coptic alfa For accented Greek characters, see . * Latin / alpha * Mathematical / Technical alpha


{{reflist Vowel letters