a'-lef ('): The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It is nearly soundless itself and best represented, as in this Encyclopedia, by the smooth breathing ('), but it is the direct ancestor of the Greek, Latin and English "a" as in "father." In either case this beginning of the alphabet happens to be near the very basis of all speech--in one case the simple expiration of breath, in the other the simplest possible vocal action--the actual basis from which all other vowels are evolved. It became also the symbol for the number one (1) and, with the dieresis, 1,000. It is the symbol also for one of the most famous of Greek Biblical manuscripts, the Codex Sinaiticus. For name, written form, etc., see ALPHABET.
E. C. Richardson