Definition of alphabet in US English:



  • 1A set of letters or symbols in a fixed order, used to represent the basic sounds of a language; in particular, the set of letters from A to Z.

    The alphabet has its roots in Phoenician writing of the 2nd millennium BC, from which the modern Hebrew and Arabic systems are ultimately derived. The Greek alphabet, which emerged in 1000–900 BC, developed two branches, Cyrillic (which became the script of Russian) and Etruscan (from which derives the Roman alphabet used in the West)

    • ‘We created fonts for the alphabets of both languages so that the letters were defined using the same basic components (vertical, diagonal, and horizontal lines).’
    • ‘The odd bit is that English is harder to read than any other language using the alphabet.’
    • ‘The phonetic alphabet is almost as hard to master as the new language itself.’
    • ‘The flags are held, arms extended, in various positions representing each of the letters of the alphabet or numbers.’
    • ‘The curve of the exterior wall is dressed in gray granite on which the alphabets, hieroglyphs and symbols of over 120 languages are etched.’
    • ‘Chinese does not have an alphabet, but characters representing words, formed from stokes symbolising syllables.’
    • ‘Thai is a tonal language, and its alphabet is derived from Mon and Khmer scripts.’
    • ‘Modern scientific studies find that only the brain's left hemisphere is active in speaking foreign languages made up of alphabets.’
    • ‘Did I know that the place has not only its own language but its own alphabet?’
    • ‘Castle painstakingly inked real and altered alphabets; alphabets that look letterpressed, so finely are they executed.’
    • ‘Languages have alphabets, or character repertoires, but computers deal with digits.’
    • ‘These deals allowed Asians to use their own languages and alphabets, rather than numbers or English, when surfing the web.’
    • ‘In two or three months, all you get is a brief idea of the alphabet of a language.’
    • ‘When learning to read, many preschool age children recognize letters in alphabets (or characters in non alphabet languages) long before they are able to read.’
    • ‘For the present we are concentrating on ciphers where the basic symbols are the letters of the English alphabet.’
    • ‘I used to try and cram the whole twenty-four letter alphabet into one little symbol.’
    • ‘Different languages have different alphabets; different cultures use different calendars.’
    • ‘Mrs Sulley taught me the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they represented.’
    • ‘If we assign numerical values to the alphabet in order, the letters HUM added together would yield 42.’
    • ‘Czech is one of a group of Slavic languages that use the Roman rather than the Cyrillic alphabet.’
    abc, letters
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 The basic elements in a system which combine to form complex entities.
      ‘DNA's 4-letter alphabet’
      • ‘Thuriam's Medical coding consists of combination of numbers and alphabets adhering to different coding standards.’
      • ‘This is the musical alphabet from which the language of music ultimately is derived.’
      • ‘Each cell is blank or contains one symbol from a finite alphabet of symbols.’
      • ‘A four-letter alphabet might seem a rather limited system for writing complex messages.’
      • ‘Female nudes that appear repeatedly in his works, both paintings and sculptures, are not erotic; they are alphabets for a powerful political statement.’


Early 16th century: from late Latin alphabetum, from Greek alpha, bēta, the first two letters of the Greek alphabet.