A, first letter of the English alphabet and others that can be traced back to Semitic roots. The letter was originally drawn to represent the head of an ox and given the name aleph (Phoenician “ox”). In Greek this became alpha. The shape of the letter changed gradually as it passed into the Hebrew, Greek, and Roman alphabets. Our capital A is based on the Greek form. The lower-case a was first used in medieval manuscripts. From the first 2 letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta, we derive the word alphabet.