Meaning of A in English

I. ˈā noun

( plural a's or as ˈāz)

Usage: often capitalized, often attributive

Date: before 12th century


a. : the 1st letter of the English alphabet

b. : a graphic representation of this letter

c. : a speech counterpart of orthographic a

2. : the sixth tone of a C-major scale

3. : a graphic device for reproducing the letter a

4. : one designated a especially as the first in order or class


a. : a grade rating a student's work as superior in quality

b. : one graded or rated with an A

6. : something shaped like the letter A

7. capitalized : the one of the four ABO blood groups characterized by the presence of antigens designated by the letter A and by the presence of antibodies against the antigens present in the B blood group

II. ə, (ˈ)ā, Canad ˈa indefinite article

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

Date: before 12th century

1. — used as a function word before singular nouns when the referent is unspecified

a man overboard

and before number collectives and some numbers

a dozen

2. : the same

birds of a feather

swords all of a length


a. — used as a function word before a singular noun followed by a restrictive modifier

a man who was here yesterday

b. : any

a man who is sick can't work

c. — used as a function word before a mass noun to denote a particular type or instance

a bronze made in ancient times

d. — used as a function word before a proper noun representing an example or type

the attractions of a Boston or a Cleveland

e. — used as a function word before a proper noun to indicate limited knowledge about the referent

a Mr. Smith called to inquire about the job

f. — used as a function word before a proper noun to distinguish the condition of the referent from a usual, former, or hypothetical condition

a triumphant Ms. Jones greeted her supporters

4. — used as a function word with nouns to form adverbial phrases of quantity, amount, or degree

felt a bit tired


In speech and writing a is used before a consonant sound

a door

a human

Before a vowel sound an is usual

an icicle

an honor

but especially in speech a is used occasionally, more often in some dialects than in others

a apple

a hour

a obligation

Before a consonant sound represented by a vowel letter a is usual

a one

a union

but an also occurs though less frequently now than formerly

an unique

such an one

Before unstressed or weakly stressed syllables with initial h both a and an are used in writing

a historic

an historic

In the King James Version of the Old Testament and occasionally in writing and speech an is used before h in a stressed syllable

an huntress

an hundred

children are an heritage of the Lord — Psalms 127:3(Authorized Version)

III. ə also (ˈ)ā preposition

Etymology: Middle English, from Old English a-, an, on

Date: before 12th century

1. chiefly dialect : on , in , at

2. : in, to, or for each

twice a week

five dollars a dozen

Usage: see a II

IV. ə, (ˌ)a verb

Etymology: Middle English, contraction of have

Date: 14th century

archaic : have

I might a had husbands afore now — John Bunyan

V. ə preposition

Etymology: Middle English, by contraction

Date: 15th century

: of — often attached to the preceding word

kind a

lott a

VI. abbreviation

1. absent

2. acceleration

3. acre

4. adult

5. alto

6. anode

7. answer

8. ante

9. anterior

10. are

11. area

12. atto-

13. author

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate English vocabulary.      Энциклопедический словарь английского языка Merriam Webster.