since 1997, the world's premier FREE website for learners + teachers of English

English Alphabet

An alphabet is a set of letters or symbols that we use to represent the basic speech sounds of a language in writing.

This page looks at writing the English alphabet. You can read about pronouncing the English alphabet here.

The English word "alphabet" comes from the Latin word "alphabetum". The Latin word "alphabetum" came from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, "alpha" and "beta".

Letters of the English Alphabet

The English alphabet has 26 letters, starting with a and ending with z. Below you see the whole alphabet.

a
b
c
d
e
f
g
h
i
j
k
l
m
n
o
p
q
r
s
t
u
v
w
x
y
z
The letters above are "small letters". But they can also be written as "large letters" - see below.The letters of the alphabet are also sometimes called "characters".

Small and Large Letters

We can write each letter of the English alphabet as a "small letter" (abc) or as a "large letter" (ABC). Large letters are also called "capital letters" or "capitals".

Below you see the whole alphabet with small letters on the left and capitals on the right:

a   A
b   B
c   C
d   D
e   E
f   F
g   G
h   H
i   I
j   J
k   K
l   L
m   M
n   N
o   O
p   P
q   Q
r   R
s   S
t   T
u   U
v   V
w   W
x   X
y   Y
z   Z
In informal English, we sometimes call capitals just "caps".
Small letters are sometimes called "lower case" and large letters "upper case". This is because in the old days of printing, before computers, the metal blocks for setting type were kept in two different boxes or "cases": small letters in the bottom or lower case, large letters in the top or upper case.

Font Styles

Printed letters of the alphabet come in different styles or designs. Each style is called a "font". This page shows all 26 characters, as small and large letters, in 5 different styles. Each column displays a different font style, in this order:

  1. Serif: with serifs, or little projections, at the end of most strokes
  2. Fixed-width: like old typewriter lettering - each letter is about the same width, so "i" takes up the same space as "w"
  3. Sans-serif: with no serifs
  4. Cursive: like handwriting
  5. Fantasy: fancy, artistic

fonts

Alphabetical Order

The English alphabet starts with the letter a and finishes with the letter z. We always write the alphabet in the same order:

a-b-c-d-e-f-g-h-i-j-k-l-m-n-o-p-q-r-s-t-u-v-w-x-y-z

A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P-Q-R-S-T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z

This order is called "alphabetical order". We often write lists in alphabetical order. For example, to write a list of countries in alphabetical order, we start with countries that begin with the letter A, then with countries that begin with B, and so on. For example:

If more than one word begins with the letter A, we put them in order based on the second letter, and then the third letter, and so on:

We use alphabetical order for many things, for example:

When you write any list, it is a good idea to use alphabetical order. This makes it easy for your reader to find a particular item in the list.