AskDefine | Define aleph

Dictionary Definition

aleph n : the 1st letter of the Hebrew alphabet

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  1. The first letter of the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, continued in descended Semitic alphabets as Phoenician Aleph 𐤀, Syriac sc=Syrc, Hebrew א and Arabic ﺍ.

Extensive Definition

is the reconstructed name of the first letter of the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, continued in descended Semitic alphabets as Phoenician !rowspan=2|RashiScript |- !|Serif !! Sans-serif !! Monospaced |- |width=20%|א |width=20%|א |width=20%|א |width=20%||width=20%||}
In Modern Israeli Hebrew, the letter represents either a glottal stop, or has no pronunciation besides that of the vowel attached to it. The pronunciation varies from between Jewish ethnic groups.
In gematria, aleph represents the number 1, and when used at the beginning of Hebrew years, it means 1000 (i.e. א'תשנ"ד in numbers would be the date 1754).
Aleph, along with Ayin, Resh, He, and Heth, cannot receive a dagesh. (However, there are few very rare examples where the Masoretes added a dagesh to an Aleph or Resh.)
Aleph is sometimes used as a mater lectionis to denote a vowel, usually /a/. Such use is more common in words of Aramaic and Arabic origin, in foreign names and some other borrowed words.

In Judaism

Aleph is the subject of a midrash which praises its humility in not demanding to start the Bible. (In Hebrew the Bible begins with the second letter of the alphabet, Bet.) In this folktale, Aleph is rewarded by being allowed to start the Ten Commandments. (In Hebrew, the first word is אָנֹכִי, which starts with an aleph.)
In the Sefer Yetzirah, The letter Aleph is King over Breath, Formed Air in the universe, Temperate in the Year, and the Chest in the soul.
Aleph is also the first letter of the Hebrew word emet, which means truth. In Jewish mythology it was the letter aleph that was carved into the head of the golem which ultimately gave it life.
Aleph also begins the three words that make up God's mystical name in Exodus, I Am That I Am, (in Hebrew, 'Ehye 'Asher 'Ehye), and aleph is an important part of mystical amulets and formulas.

Hebrew sayings with Aleph

From Aleph to Tav describes something from beginning to end; the Hebrew equivalent of the English From A to Z.
One who doesn't know how to make an Aleph is someone who is illiterate.
No...with a big Aleph! (lo b'aleph rabati - לא באלף רבתי) means Absolutely not!. "ALF is Aleph" by spiritus lenis


In set theory, The Hebrew aleph glyph is used as the symbol to denote the aleph numbers, which represent the cardinality of infinite sets. This notation was introduced by mathematician Georg Cantor.

Syriac Olaf/Alap

In the Syriac alphabet, the first letter is — — Olaf (in western pronunciation) or Alap (in eastern pronunciation). It is used in word-initial position to mark a word beginning with a vowel — although some words beginning with i or u do not need its help, and sometimes an initial Olaf/Alap is elided. For example, when the Syriac first-person singular pronoun is in enclitic positions, it is pronounced no/na (again west/east) rather than the full form eno/ena. The letter occurs very regularly at the end of words, where it represents the long final vowels o/a or e. In the middle of the word, the letter represents either a glottal stop between vowels (but West Syriac pronunciation often makes this a palatal approximant), a long i/e (less commonly o/a) or is silent.´


As a numeral it Olaf/Alap stands for the number one. With a dot below, it is the number 1,000, with a line above it, Olaf/Alap will represent 1,000,000. with a line below it is 10,000 and with two dots below it is 10,000,000.

Arabic Alif

Alif (, pronounced ) is the first letter of the Arabic alphabet.
Together with Hebrew Aleph, Greek Alpha and Latin A, it is descended from Phoenician , from Proto-Canaanite "ox".
Historically, the Arabic letter was used to render either a long /aː/, or a glottal stop /ʔ/. This led to orthographical confusion, and to introduction of the additional letter hamzatu l-qat` . Hamza is not considered a full harf in Arabic orthography: in most cases it appears on a carrier, either a waw, a dotless yā, or an alif. The choice of carrier depends on complicated orthographic rules. Alif is generally the carrier where the only adjacent vowel is fatha. It is the only possible carrier where hamza is the first phoneme of a word. Where alif acts as a carrier for hamza, hamza is added above the alif, or, for initial alif kasra, below it, indicating that the letter so modified does indeed signify a glottal stop, and not a long vowel.
A second type of hamza, hamzatu l-wasl, occurs only as the initial phoneme of the definite article and in some related cases. It differs from hamzatu l-qat` in that it is elided after a preceding vowel. Again, alif is always the carrier.
The is, as it were, a double alif, expressing both a glottal stop and a long vowel: (final ) [ʔæː], for example in
The , or "broken alif," looks like a dotless , (final ). It may only appear at the end of a word. Although it looks different from a regular Alif, it represents the same sound (long /aː/). Alif maqsura is transliterated as in DIN 31635 and in ISO 233. ʾAlif maqṣūra can be confused with a yāʼ ي because many writers (especially in Egypt) use a dotless "yaa" at the end of a word, when this letter should actually be written with two dots underneath. This makes it more difficult for Arabic learners to distinguish between these two letters, although native speakers can usually tell which letter is intended. The dotless "yaa" is not called alif maqsura in these cases but it only looks like one.
Alif is written in one of the following ways depending on its position in the word:

See also


aleph in Tosk Albanian: א
aleph in Amharic: አልፍ
aleph in Arabic: ا
aleph in Official Aramaic (700-300 BCE): ܐܠܦ
aleph in Breton: Alef (lizherenn)
aleph in Catalan: א
aleph in Danish: Alef
aleph in German: Aleph
aleph in Spanish: Álef
aleph in French: Aleph (lettre)
aleph in Scottish Gaelic: Aleph (Eabhra)
aleph in Italian: Aleph
aleph in Hebrew: א
aleph in Hungarian: Alef
aleph in Dutch: Alef
aleph in Norwegian Nynorsk: א
aleph in Polish: Alef
aleph in Portuguese: Aleph
aleph in Romanian: Alef
aleph in Russian: Алеф
aleph in Finnish: Alef
aleph in Swedish: Alef
aleph in Thai: อะลิฟ
aleph in Yiddish: א (אות)
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