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ʾĀlep is the reconstructed name of the first letter of the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, continued in descended Semitic alphabets as Phoenician Aleph Phoenician aleph.svg, Syriac 'Ālaph ܐ, HebrewAleph א, and Arabic ʾAlif ا.

Aleph originally represented the glottal stop (IPA /ʔ/), usually transliterated as ʾ (U+02BE) "modifier letter right half ring", a character of the Unicode Spacing Modifier Letters range, based on the Greek spiritus lenis ʼ. For example in the transliteration of the letter name itself, ʾāleph.

The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Alpha (Α), being re-interpreted to express not the glottal consonant but the accompanying vowel, and hence the Latin A and Cyrillic А.


Aleph is thought to be derived from the West Semitic word for "ox", and the shape of the letter derives from a Proto-Sinaitic glyph based on a hieroglyph depicting an ox's head, F1 .

In modern Hebrew, "me'ulaf", derived from the Hebrew root ʔ-l-f (alef-lamed-pe) is the passive participle of the verb "le'alef", and means trained (when referring to pets) or tamed (when referring to wild animals); the IDF rank of Aluf, taken from an Edomite title of nobility, is also cognate. In modern Arabic, "aleef" literally means "tame animal".


In Rabbinic Judaic folktale

'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, 'Ehyeh 'Asher 'Ehyeh אהיה אׁשר אהיה), and 'aleph is an important part of mystical amulets and formulas.

Jewish mysticism relates Aleph to the element of air, the fool (number 0) of the tarot deck, and the Scintillating Intelligence (#11) of the path between Kether and Chokmah in the Tree of the Sephiroth.



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.