Pronunciation: (al'fu-bet", -bit), [key]
1. the letters of a language in their customary order.
2. any system of characters or signs with which a language is written: the Greek alphabet.
3. any such system for representing the sounds of a language: the phonetic alphabet.
4. first elements; basic facts; simplest rudiments: the alphabet of genetics.
5. the alphabet,a system of writing, developed in the ancient Near East and transmitted from the northwest Semites to the Greeks, in which each symbol ideally represents one sound unit in the spoken language, and from which most alphabetical scripts are derived.

Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.

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