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15 Oct 2018

The Shocking Reason Why The English Alphabets Are Arranged From A – Z

As English speakers, it’s pretty much a guarantee that we have the alphabets ingrained in our memory in the specific order of A-Z from a very tender age.

You can most likely say the ABCs at very quick speed without even thinking about it, and if you are a little special, you may even be able to say it backwards. A lot of us can’t imagine the alphabet being arranged in any other order… but the big question is, why are the letters arranged in that order in the first place?

Looking at the Alphabets deeply, you will realise that it’s not arranged by vowels and consonants, similar sounds, or how often the letters are used. These factors however actually varies by language; on French keyboards, the letter “Q” is where the letter “A” of English Alphabets are.
So how did the order of the English Alphabets come to be? There’s really not an easy answer. No one woke up and decided to put the letters in that order; the alphabet evolved slowly over a long period of time to become what it is today.

As a matter of fact, the English letters can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt, where foreign workers developed alphabetic lettering while the Egyptians themselves were still using hieroglyphics.

This first alphabet was adapted by the Phoenicians, whose Mediterranean civilization thrived from 1500 to 300 BC. The Greeks then began using it around the 8th century BC, and they are to thank for the vowels we have this day.

From Greece, the letters travelled to Rome, and it’s the Romans who turned it into the “modern” alphabet, with the letters we know today. The Romans took “Z,” which was near the beginning of the Greek alphabet as “zeta” but had since disappeared, and tacked it onto the end of their alphabet. They also did something similar with “Y.”

The big question is why are the alphabets arranged in the order A-Z? No one knows for sure. Some scholars theorize that it was based off of the order of Egyptian hieroglyphics. One of the most popular theories suggests that there was a numerical component; each letter had a number equivalent, and those have just been lost over time.

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