The

 

the definite article [ME, fr. OE the, masc. demonstrative pron. & definite article, alter. (influenced by oblique cases — as thaes, gen. — & neut., thaet) of se; akin to Gk ho, masc. demonstrative pron. & definite article—more at that] (bef. 12c)

1

a—used as a function word to indicate that a following noun or noun equivalent is definite or has been previously specified by context or by circumstance <put ~ cat out>

b—used as a function word to indicate that a following noun or noun equivalent is a unique or a particular member of its class <~ President> <~ Lord>

c—used as a function word before nouns that designate natural phenomena or points of the compass <~ night is cold>

d—used as a function word before a noun denoting time to indicate reference to what is present or immediate or is under consideration <in ~ future>

e—used as a function word before names of some parts of the body or of the clothing as an equivalent of a possessive adjective <how’s ~ arm today>

f—used as a function word before the name of a branch of human endeavor or proficiency <~ law>

g—used as a function word in prepositional phrases to indicate that the noun in the phrase serves as a basis for computation <sold by ~ dozen>

h—used as a function word before a proper name (as of a ship or a well-known building) <~ Mayflower>

i—used as a function word before the plural form of a numeral that is a multiple of ten to denote a particular decade of a century or of a person’s life <life in ~ twenties>

j—used as a function word before the name of a commodity or any familiar appurtenance of daily life to indicate reference to the individual thing, part, or supply thought of as at hand <talked on ~ telephone>

k—used as a function word to designate one of a class as the best, most typical, best known, or most worth singling out <this is ~ life> <~ Pill>—sometimes used before a personal name to denote the most prominent bearer of that name

 

2

a (1)—used as a function word with a noun modified by an adjective or by an attributive noun to limit the application of the modified noun to that specified by the adjective or by the attributive noun <~ right answer> <Peter ~ Great>

(2)—used as a function word before an absolute adjective or an ordinal number <nothing but ~ best> <due on ~ first>

b (1)—used as a function word before a noun to limit its application to that specified by a succeeding element in the sentence <~ poet Wordsworth> <~ days of our youth> <didn’t have ~ time to write>

(2)—used as a function word after a person’s name to indicate a characteristic trait or notorious activity specified by the succeeding noun <Jack ~ Ripper>

 

3

a—used as a function word before a singular noun to indicate that the noun is to be understood generically <~ dog is a domestic animal>

b—used as a function word before a singular substantivized adjective to indicate an abstract idea <an essay on ~ sublime>

 

4—used as a function word before a noun or a substantivized adjective to indicate reference to a group as a whole <~ elite>

 

the adv [ME, fr. OE thy by that, instrumental of thaet that] (bef. 12c) 1: than before: than otherwise—used before a comparative <none ~ wiser for attending> 2 a: to what extent <~ sooner the better> b: to that extent <the sooner ~ better> 3: beyond all others <likes this ~ best> the prep [the] (15c): per 2 <a dollar ~ dozen>

 

 

A

 

a n, pl a’s or as often cap, often attrib (bef. 12c) 1 a: the 1st letter of the English alphabet b: a graphic representation of this letter c: a speech counterpart of orthographic a 2: the 6th tone of a C-major scale 3: a graphic device for reproducing the letter a 4: one designated a esp. as the 1st in order or class 5 a: a grade rating a student’s work as superior in quality b: one graded or rated with an A 6: something shaped like the letter

 

A a indefinite article [ME, fr. OE an one—more at one] (bef. 12c)

 

1—used as a function word before singular nouns when the referent is unspecified <a man overboard> and before number collectives and some numbers <a dozen>

2: the same <birds of a feather> <swords all of a length>

3

a—used as a function word before a singular noun followed by a restrictive modifier <a man who was here yesterday>

b: any <a man who is sick can’t work>

c—used as a function word before a mass noun to denote a particular type or instance <a bronze made in ancient times> <glucose is a simple sugar> d—used as a function word before a proper noun representing an example or type <the attractions of a Boston or a Cleveland>

4—used as a function word with nouns to form adverbial phrases of quantity, amount, or degree <felt a little tired>

 

usage In speech and writing a is used before a consonant sound <a door> <a human>. Before a vowel sound an is usual <an icicle> <an honor> but esp. in speech a is used occasionally, more often in some dialects than in others <a apple> <a hour> <a obligation>. Before a consonant sound represented by a vowel letter a is usual <a one> <a union> but an also occurs though less frequently now than formerly <an unique> <such an one>. Before unstressed or weakly stressed syllables with initial h both a and an are used in writing <a historic> <an historic> but in speech an is more frequent whether /h/ is pronounced or not. In the King James Version of the Old Testament and occasionally in writing and speech an is used before h in a stressed syllable <an huntress> <an hundred> <children are an heritage of the Lord —Ps 127:3(AV)>. a prep [ME, fr. OE a-, an, on] (bef. 12c) 1 chiefly dial: on, in, at 2: in, to, or for each <twice a week> <five dollars a dozen> usage see a a vb [ME, contr. of have] (14c) archaic: have <I might a had husbands afore now —John Bunyan> a prep [ME, by contr.] (15c): of—often attached to the preceding word <kinda> <lotta>