A (ȧ emph. ā). 1. [Shortened
form of an. AS. ān one. See One.] An adjective,
commonly called the indefinite article, and signifying one or
any, but less emphatically. "At a birth"; "In a
word"; "At a blow". Shak. It is placed before nouns of the
singular number denoting an individual object, or a quality individualized,
before collective nouns, and also before plural nouns when the adjective
few or the phrase great many or good many is
interposed; as, a dog, a house, a man; a color;
a sweetness; a hundred, a fleet, a regiment;
a few persons, a great many days. It is used for an,
for the sake of euphony, before words beginning with a consonant sound [for
exception of certain words beginning with h, see An]; as, a
table, a woman, a year, a unit, a eulogy,
a ewe, a oneness, such a one, etc. Formally an
was used both before vowels and consonants.
2. [Originally the preposition a (an,
on).] In each; to or for each; as, "twenty leagues a
day", "a hundred pounds a year", "a dollar a yard",
A. [From AS. of off, from. See Of.]
Of. [Obs.] "The name of John a Gaunt." "What time
a day is it ?" Shak. "It's six a clock." B.
A. A barbarous corruption of have, of he,
and sometimes of it and of they. "So would I a
done" "A brushes his hat." Shak.
A. An expletive, void of sense, to fill up the
A merry heart goes all the day,
Your sad tires in a mile-a.
A (named ā in the English, and most commonly ä in
other languages). The first letter of the English and of many
other alphabets. The capital A of the alphabets of Middle and Western
Europe, as also the small letter (a), besides the forms in Italic, black
letter, etc., are all descended from the old Latin A, which was borrowed
from the Greek Alpha, of the same form; and this was made from the
first letter (?) of the Phœnician alphabet, the equivalent of the
Hebrew Aleph, and itself from the Egyptian origin. The Aleph
was a consonant letter, with a guttural breath sound that was not an
element of Greek articulation; and the Greeks took it to represent their
vowel Alpha with the ä sound, the Phœnician alphabet
having no vowel symbols.
This letter, in English, is used for several different vowel sounds. See
Guide to pronunciation, §§ 43-74. The regular long
a, as in fate, etc., is a comparatively modern sound, and has
taken the place of what, till about the early part of the 17th century, was
a sound of the quality of ä (as in far).
2. (Mus.) The name of the sixth tone in the
model major scale (that in C), or the first tone of the minor scale, which
is named after it the scale in A minor. The second string of the violin is
tuned to the A in the treble staff. -- A sharp (A♯) is the name of a
musical tone intermediate between A and B. -- A flat (A♭) is the name
of a tone intermediate between A and G.
A per se (L. per se by itself), one
preëminent; a nonesuch. [Obs.]
O fair Creseide, the flower and A per se
Of Troy and Greece.
A (ȧ), prep. [Abbreviated form of
an (AS. on). See On.] 1. In; on;
at; by. [Obs.] "A God's name." "Torn a pieces."
"Stand a tiptoe." "A Sundays" Shak. "Wit that men have
now a days." Chaucer. "Set them a work." Robynson
2. In process of; in the act of; into; to; -- used
with verbal substantives in -ing which begin with a consonant. This
is a shortened form of the preposition an (which was used before the
vowel sound); as in a hunting, a building, a
begging. "Jacob, when he was a dying" Heb. xi. 21.
"We'll a birding together." " It was a doing." Shak.
"He burst out a laughing." Macaulay. The hyphen may be used
to connect a with the verbal substantive (as, a-hunting,
a-building) or the words may be written separately. This form of
expression is now for the most part obsolete, the a being omitted
and the verbal substantive treated as a participle.