Are there any ancient—or modern, if not—examples of a learner's alphabet that mirrors the modern "A is for..."?

I'm not really looking for poetry that has an alphabet acrostic or any other playfulness, but specifically for a standard construction of "is for" or "stands for" or "signifies" when used with alphabets.

I know I could use significare (which Paulus uses to explain unfamiliar words) or indicare, but I don't know if they have Classical precedents specifically for this type of exercise.


The beginning of Orbis Pictus (1658) by Comenius has a list of sounds corresponding to the letters of the alphabet, meant for young students ("boys").

I have reproduced it from the 1748 edition of the Latin-German-Hungarian version (http://real-r.mtak.hu/624/, pdf pages 25-27), omitting the grammatical information on the nouns. The English translations are from the 1777 edition of Hoole's Latin-English version (http://books.google.nl/books?vid=OCLC27390661&pg=PA2).

The Magister (Master) tells the Puer (Boy): "Hic habes vivum et vocále Alphabétum" - "Here thou hast a lively and vocal Alphabet".

  • A a: Cornix cornicátur (The Crow crieth), á á
  • B b: Ovis balat (The Lamb bleateth), bé é é [the English version has 'Agnus']
  • C c: Cicáda stridet (The Grashopper chirpeth), cí cí
  • D d: Úpupa dicit (The Whooppoo saith), du du
  • E e: Infans éjulat (The Infant crieth), é é é
  • F f: Ventus flat (The Wind bloweth), fi fi
  • G g: Anser gingrit (The Goose gagleth), ga ga
  • H h: Os halat (The Mouth breatheth out), háh háh
  • I i: Mus mintrit (The Mouse chirpeth), í í í
  • K k: Anas tetrinnit (The Duck quacketh), kha kha
  • L l: Lupus úlulat (The Wolf howleth), lu ulu
  • M m: Ursus múrmurat (The Bear grumbleth), mum mum
  • N n: Felis clamat (The Cat crieth), nau nau
  • O o: Auríga clamat (The Carter crieth), ó ó ó
  • P p: Pullus pipit (The Chicken pippeth), pi pi
  • Q q: Cucúlus cucúlat (The Cuckow singeth), kuk ku
  • R r: Canis ríngitur (The Dog grinneth), err
  • S s: Serpens síbilat (The Serpent hisseth),
  • T t: Gráculus clamat (The Jay crieth), tac tac [L&S: graculus = jackdaw]
  • U u: Bubo úlulat (The Owl hooteth), ú ú
  • W w: Lepus vagit (The Hare squeaketh),
  • X x: Rana coaxat (The Frog croaketh), coax
  • Y y: Ásinus rudit (The Asse brayeth), y y y
  • Z z: Tabánus dicit (The Breeze or Horse-fly saith), ds ds

[I've added the acute accents in ásinus and úpupa. Coáxat and tetrínnit don't need them.]

  • This is great, but it isn't quite what I was looking for. But definitely a good find!
    – cmw
    May 11 '21 at 17:50

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