Etymology
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minuscule (n.)

1705, "small (not capital) letter," from French minuscule (17c.), from Latin minuscula, in minuscula littera "slightly smaller letter," fem. of minusculus "rather less, rather small," diminutive of minus "less" (from PIE root *mei- (2) "small"). It refers to the kind of reduced alphabetical character which arose 7c. and was from about 9c. substituted in writing for the large uncial. From it the small or lower-case letters of the modern Latin alphabet were derived.

As an adjective, from 1727 in printing, "not capital, of reduced form, small" (of letters); the general sense of "extremely small" is attested by 1893. Related: Minuscular.

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ogham (n.)

also ogam, name of an ancient Irish and Celtic form of writing using a 20-character alphabet, 1620s, from Irish ogham, from Old Irish ogam, said to be from name of its inventor, Ogma Mac Eladan. Tthis appears to be from Celtic *Ogmios, perhaps from PIE *hog-mo- "trajectory; furrow, track," thus metaphorically "incised line." The writing style looks like a series of cuts or incised lines. The inventor's name thus might be folk etymology. Lucian, writing in Greek, records Ogmios as the name of a Gaulish deity. The PIE word is perhaps also the source of Sanskrit ajma "course, road." Greek ogmos "a straight line," Related: Oghamic.

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zilch (n.)

"nothing," 1957; "insignificant person," 1933, from use of Zilch as a generic comical-sounding surname for an insignificant person (especially Joe Zilch). There was a Mr. Zilch (1931), comic character in the magazine "Ballyhoo," and the use perhaps originated c. 1922 in U.S. college or theater slang. Probably a nonsense syllable, suggestive of the end of the alphabet, but Zilch is an actual German surname of Slavic origin.

The [Cadence] agency aims to have each album cover actually promote the record, on the theory that "the day of pretty, boffy, zoomy and zingy covers for the sake of zilch is no more." [Billboard, Oct. 28, 1957]
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chi (n.)
22nd letter of the Greek alphabet, representing a -kh- sound (see ch). The letter is shaped like an X, and so the Greek letter name was used figuratively to signify such a shape or arrangement (as in khiasma "two things placed crosswise;" khiastos "arranged diagonally; marked with an X;" khiazein "to mark with an 'X', to write the letter 'X'"). Some dialects used chi to represent the -ks- sound properly belonging to xi; Latin picked this up and the sound value of chi in Latin-derived alphabets is now that of English X.
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gram (n.)
also gramme, metric unit of weight, 1797, from French gramme (18c.), from Late Latin gramma "small weight," from Greek gramma "small weight," a special use of the classical word meaning "a letter of the alphabet" (see -gram). Adopted into English about two years before it was established in France as a unit in the metric system by law of 19 frimaire, year VIII (1799). "There seems to be no possible objection to adopting the more convenient shorter form, except that the -me records the unimportant fact that the word came to us through French" [Fowler].
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shrift (n.)
Old English scrift "confession to priest, followed by penance and absolution," verbal noun from scrifan "to impose penance," from an early Germanic borrowing of Latin scribere "to write" (from PIE root *skribh- "to cut") that produced nouns for "penance, confession" in Old English and Scandinavian (such as Old Norse skrjpt "penance, confession"), but elsewhere in Germanic is used in senses "writing, scripture, alphabet letter;" see shrive. Short shrift originally was the brief time for a condemned criminal to confess before execution (1590s); figurative extension to "little or no consideration" is first attested 1814.
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alpha (n.)
c. 1300, from Latin alpha, from Greek alpha, from Hebrew or Phoenician aleph (see aleph). The Greeks added -a because Greek words cannot end in most consonants. Sense of "beginning of anything" is from late 14c., often paired with omega (the last letter in the Greek alphabet, representing "the end"); sense of "first in a sequence" is from 1620s. In astronomy, the designation of the brightest star of each constellation (the use of Greek letters in star names began with Bayer's atlas in 1603). Alpha male was in use by c. 1960 among scientists studying animals; applied to humans in society from c. 1992.
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G 

seventh letter of the alphabet, invented by the Romans; a modified gamma introduced c. 250 B.C.E. to restore a dedicated symbol for the "g" sound. For fuller history, see C

Before the vowels -e-, -i-, and -y-, Old English initial g- changed its sound and is represented in Modern English by consonantal y- (year, yard, yellow, young, yes, etc.). In get and give, however, the initial g- seems to have been preserved by Scandinavian influence. As a movie rating in the U.S., 1966, standing for general (adj.). Standing for gravity in physics since 1785.

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H 

eighth letter of the alphabet; it comes from Phoenician, via Greek and Latin. In Phoenician it originally had a rough guttural sound like German Reich or Scottish loch. In Greek at first it had the value of Modern English -h-, and with this value it passed into the Latin alphabet via Greek colonies in Italy. Subsequently in Greek it came to be used for a long "e" sound; the "h" sound being indicated by a fragment of the letter, which later was reduced to the aspiration mark.

In Germanic it was used for the voiceless breath sound when at the beginning of words, and in the middle or at the end of words for the rough guttural sound, which later came to be written -gh.

The sound became totally silent in Vulgar Latin and in the languages that emerged from it; thus the letter was omitted in Old French and Italian, but it was restored pedantically in French and Middle English spelling, and often later in English pronunciation. Thus Modern English has words ultimately from Latin with missing -h- (able, from Latin habile); with a silent -h- (heir, hour); with a formerly silent -h- now often vocalized (humble, humor, herb); and even a few with an unetymological -h- fitted in confusion to words that never had one (hostage, hermit). Relics of the formerly unvoiced -h- persist in pedantic insistence on an historical (object) and in obsolete mine host.

The pronunciation "aitch" was in Old French (ache "name of the letter H"), and is from a presumed Late Latin *accha (compare Italian effe, elle, emme), with the central sound approximating the rough, guttural value of the letter in Germanic. In earlier Latin the letter was called ha. The use in digraphs (as in -sh-, -th-) goes back to the ancient Greek alphabet, which used it in -ph-, -th-, -kh- until -H- took on the value of a long "e" and the digraphs acquired their own characters. The letter passed into Roman use before this evolution, and thus retained there more of its original Semitic value.

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deva (n.)

"god, divinity, good spirit" in Hindu religion, 1819, from Sanskrit deva "a god" (as opposed to asuras "wicked spirits"), etymologically "a shining one," from *div- "to shine," thus cognate with Greek dios "divine" and Zeus, and Latin deus "god" (Old Latin deivos), from PIE root *dyeu- "to shine," in derivatives "sky, heaven, god."

Fem. form devi is used for "goddess," also (with capital D-) for the mother goddess in Hinduism. Hence, also, devadasi "temple dancing girl," literally "female servant of a god," from dasi "slave girl." Also Devanagari, the formal alphabet of Sanskrit writings (1781), which is literally "divine city (script)," from nagara "city," but which is perhaps short for nagari lipi "town writing."

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