• synonyms


[ al-fuh-bet, -bit ]
/ ˈæl fəˌbɛt, -bɪt /


the letters of a language in their customary order.
any system of characters or signs with which a language is written: the Greek alphabet.
any such system for representing the sounds of a language: the phonetic alphabet.
first elements; basic facts; simplest rudiments: the alphabet of genetics.
the alphabet, a system of writing, developed in the ancient Near East and transmitted from the northwest Semites to the Greeks, in which each symbol ideally represents one sound unit in the spoken language, and from which most alphabetical scripts are derived.


Why Was Z Removed From The Alphabet (And Then Put Back)?Read more in this article about some frequently asked questions and fun facts related to our definitions.


fundamentals, morphemes, elements, syllabary, symbols, ideograph, rune, hieroglyphs, characters, phonemes, pictograph

Nearby words

alpha-particle scattering, alpha-receptor, alpha-stannic acid, alpha-test, alpha-tocopherol, alphabet, alphabet code, alphabet soup, alphabetical, alphabetize, alphanumeric

Origin of alphabet

1375–1425; late Middle English alphabete < Late Latin alphabētum, alteration of Greek alphábētos. See alpha, beta
Related formspre·al·pha·bet, adjective, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for alphabet

British Dictionary definitions for alphabet


/ (ˈælfəˌbɛt) /


a set of letters or other signs used in a writing system, usually arranged in a fixed order, each letter or sign being used to represent one or sometimes more than one phoneme in the language being transcribed
any set of symbols or characters, esp one representing sounds of speech
basic principles or rudiments, as of a subject

Word Origin for alphabet

C15: from Late Latin alphabētum, from Greek alphabētos, from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet; see alpha, beta
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for alphabet



1570s, from Late Latin alphabetum (Tertullian), from Greek alphabetos, from alpha + beta. Alphabet soup first attested 1907. Words for it in Old English included stæfræw, literally "row of letters," stæfrof "array of letters."

It was a wise though a lazy cleric whom Luther mentions in his "Table Talk,"--the monk who, instead of reciting his breviary, used to run over the alphabet and then say, "O my God, take this alphabet, and put it together how you will." [William S. Walsh, "Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities," 1892]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper