The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The name assigned to this letter means “bull (cattle).” The letter is also later used outside the Hebrew Bible as a number and, when so used, denotes unity or one.
The Greek name alʹpha is derived from this Hebrew letter’s name, and our letter “a” is, in turn, drawn from the Greek letter. However, in Hebrew ʼaʹleph is not a vowel but a consonant and has no true equivalent in English. It is transliterated in writing by a raised comma (ʼ). As pronounced in Hebrew it is the softest of guttural sounds (that is, sounds pronounced in the throat), and is like the slight guttural sound given to the silent “h” at the beginning of the English word “hour,” or like with the second “o” in “cooperate.”
In the Hebrew, the first eight verses in Psalm 119 begin with ʼaʹleph.—see ALPHABET.