Meaning of A in English


I. ˈā noun

( plural a's or as also aes ˈāz)

Usage: often capitalized, often attributive


a. : the first letter of the English alphabet

b. : an instance of this letter printed, written, or otherwise represented

c. : a speech counterpart of orthographic a (as the different a sounds in ape, pat, part )

mouthing out his hollow oes and aes — Alfred Tennyson


a. : the keynote of A major or A minor

b. : the tone A

3. : a printer's type, a stamp, or some other instrument for reproducing the letter a

4. : someone or something arbitrarily or conveniently designated a, especially as the first in order or class

A deeded land to B


a. : a grade assigned by a teacher or examiner rating a student's work as excellent, best, first, or superior in quality

receiving an A in a science course

b. : one graded or rated with an A

an A student

those student papers are A's

the movie was an A

6. : something having the shape of the capital letter A

- from A to Z

II. ə, esp emphatic or hesitating or after a pause (|)ā indefinite article

Etymology: Middle English, from Old English ān one — more at one

1. — used as a function word before most singular nouns other than proper and mass nouns when the individual in question is undetermined, unidentified, or unspecified, especially when the individual is being first mentioned or called to notice

there was a tree in the field

a man walked past him

he bought a house, but this is not the house he bought

— used before words beginning with a consonant sound

a man

a union

a one

a heroic effort

and in some dialects also before words beginning with a vowel sound

a oak

a apron

— used with a plural noun only if few, very few, good many, or great many is interposed

a few hours

— used before adjectives modifying a noun to which it refers except that it follows many, such, what and any adjective or adjectives preceded by as or how, and usually follows any adjective or adjectives preceded by so or too

a long time

such a day

how good and brave a deed

too long a time

— compare an I


a. — used as a function word before noun and adjective uses of such number collectives as dozen and score and before such words as hundred, thousand, and million

a gross of candles

a hundred and twenty men

a hundred and fifty thousand

b. — used as a function word before attributive adjectives expressing number to imply indefiniteness or approximation

a twenty men

a twelve hours

— now dialect except in constructions given in note following sense 1

a great many men


a. : one

swords all of a length

men all of a sort

b. — used as a function word to suggest limitation in number

with only a brigade to defend the fort

c. : the same

birds of a feather


a. : a particular illustration of : an example of (a named class)

he is a man

b. — used as a function word before a singular noun followed by a restrictive clause or other identifying modifier

a man who was here yesterday

c. : any , each — used with a following restrictive modifier

a man guilty of kidnaping wins scant sympathy

a man who is sick can't work well

d. — used as a function word before proper nouns to indicate lack of full knowledge concerning what is indicated by them

a Mr. Smith called you yesterday

among the towns of the area there is a Smithville, I believe

e. — used as a function word before proper nouns as a step in commonization, often to designate another having qualities like those of the person or thing named

a Shakespeare in his dramatic skill

a new Rome controlling the world

f. — used as a function word before a mass noun to suggest that a kind or type is under consideration

a tobacco that grows well in cold areas

a bronze made in ancient times

g. : an instance or case of

the patient later developed a tonsillitis

: a kind of

copper is a metal

h. — used as a function word with form plurals to suggest a unifying notion

a falls in the river

a glassworks

III. ə preposition

Etymology: Middle English a, o, from Old English a-, an, on — more at on

1. chiefly dialect : on I, in I, at I, to I

might get married a Christmas — J.H.Stuart

he that died a Wednesday — Shakespeare

2. : in, to, or for each : for every — used before words with an initial consonant sound

twice a week

two dollars a pound

IV. pronoun

or 'a in senses 1-3 ə, in sense 4 ə or (ˌ)ȧ

Etymology: in sense 1, from Middle English a, ha he, unstressed variant of he, from Old English hē; in sense 2, from Middle English a, ha, unstressed variant of heo, hie, hi, from Old English hēo, hīo, hī, feminine of hē; in sense 3, from Middle English a, ha, unstressed variant of hie, hi, from Old English hīe, hī, plural of hē; in sense 4, from Middle English a, ha, unstressed vars. of he, heo, used to refer to inanimate objects of masculine or feminine gender; in sense 5, variant of I — more at he , i

1. chiefly dialect : he ; sometimes : him — usually used in spoken English in unemphatic positions

2. dialect chiefly Britain : she ; sometimes : her

3. chiefly dialect : they ; sometimes : them

4. chiefly dialect : it

5. chiefly dialect : i

V. verb

also 'a or 'a' ə, (|)a ; or ha or ha' hə, (|)ha

Etymology: Middle English a, ha, contraction of have (imperative & present subjunctive), haven (infin.)

: have

God 'a' mercy on his soul — Shakespeare

I'd a done it if I could

— now usually used as an unstressed auxiliary; often attached without hyphen to the preceding word

could a

might a

would a

— not often in formal use

VI. ə preposition

Etymology: Middle English, contraction of of

: of

passing the time a day

get it out a my locker — James Jones

— often attached without hyphen to the preceding word

kind a

sort a

coupl a

lott a

— not often now in formal use

VII. adverb (or adjective)

or a' |ȯ

Etymology: Middle English (northern dialect) aw, alteration of all

chiefly Scotland : all

VIII. abbreviation

Usage: often capitalized

1. about

2. absent

3. absolute

4. academician; academy

5. acceleration

6. accepted

7. accommodation

8. ace

9. acre

10. act; acting; active; activity

11. adjective

12. adjutant

13. administration

14. adult

15. after

16. afternoon

17. age; aged

18. air

19. aircraft

20. airman

21. airplane

22. alto

23. amateur

24. American

25. ampere

26. amphibian; amphibious

27. amplitude

28. ana

29. angstrom unit

30. anna



[Latin anno, abl. of annus ]

in the year


[Latin annus — more at annual ]


32. anode

33. anonymous

34. answer

35. ante

36. anterior

37. approved

38. aqua

39. arctic

40. are

41. area

42. army

43. article

44. artillery

45. asked

46. assist

47. associate; association

48. asymmetric

49. at

50. atom; atomic

51. atomic weight

52. Australian

53. author

54. automobile


[French avancé, past participle of avancer to advance, be fast (used of a clock), from Old French avancier — more at advance ]


IX. symbol

1. capitalized argon


[Latin ad — more at at ]

at, to — often enclosed in an encircling loop

3. capitalized mass number

X. abbreviation

1. capitalized adenine

2. atto- herein

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.