The Greek alphabet is widely used to demote various constants and values within the scientific and technology arenas. Letters including omega, eta, rho, mu and many more are used to denote a whole range of mathematical, scientific and engineering measures. Everything from resistivity, through to impedance, permeance and ratios of circles and much more.

The Greek alphabet only has 24 letters compared to the Latin based script that uses 26. However the Greek alphabet does have both capital and small versions, and virtually all of the letters are widely used for a variety of different measures.

The different Greek letters have different meanings or they are used to denote different measures as outlined in the list below.

Greek Alphabet Characters and Symbols List | |||
---|---|---|---|

Greek letter | Greek symbol | Used to denote | |

Capital | Small | ||

Alpha | Α | α | Angles, coefficients, attenuation constant, absorption factor, area |

Beta | Β | β | Angles, coefficients, phase constant |

Gamma | Γ | γ | Complex propagation constant (cap), specific gravity, angles, electrical conductivity, propagation constant |

Delta | Δ | δ | Incrment or decrement, determinant (cap), permittivity (cap), density, angles |

Epsilon | Ε | ε | Dielectric constant, permittivity, electric intensity |

Zeta | Ζ | ζ | Coordinates, coefficients |

Eta | Η | η | Intrinsic impedance, efficiency, surface charge density, hysteresis, coordinates |

Theta | Θ | θ | Angular phase displacement, angles, time constant, reluctance |

Iota | Ι | ι | Unit vector |

Kappa | Κ | κ | Susceptibility, coupling coefficient, thermal conductivity |

Lambda | Λ | λ | Permeance (cap), wavelength, attenuation constant |

Mu | Μ | μ | Permeability, amplification factor (in valves/ vacuum tubes), prefix for the micro multiplier. |

Nu | Ν | ν | Reluctivity, frequency |

Xi | Ξ | ξ | Coordinates |

Omicron | Ο | ο | |

Pi | Π | π | Universally used for 3.1416 . . |

Rho | Ρ | ρ | Resistivity, volume charge density, coordinates |

Sigma | Σ | σ | Summation (cap), surface charge density, complex propagation constant, electrical conductivity, leakage coefficient, deviation |

Tau | Τ | τ | Time constant, volume resistivity, time-phase displacement, transmission factor, density |

Upsilon | Υ | υ | |

Phi | Φ | φ | Scalar potential (cap), magnetic flux, angles |

Chi | Χ | χ | Electric susceptibility, angles |

Psi | Ψ | ψ | Dielectric flux, phase difference, coordinates, angles |

Omega | Ω | ω | Electrical resistance (cap), solid angle, angular velocity |

**Note:** The small Greek letter in the alphabet is used except where the notation (cap) is used where the capital version of the Greek letter is used.

## How was the Greek alphabet formed

As everyone knows the Greek alphabet with its characters and symbols dates back many thousands of years.

Although the Greek alphabet was widely used within the Greece and its empire, the alphabet and the associated symbols took on influences from much earlier civilisations as well as resulting from influences arising from the trade that took place within the Mediterranean and beyond..

One of the major influences for the Greek alphabet were the Phoenicians. Around 750 BC the Greeks started to adopt the language system from the Phoenicians although there were influences from the Minoans and Mycenaeans that were the other main groups with whom the ancient Greeks had contact.

Essentially the Greek alphabet became the successor to the Phoenician one, and ultimately became the Greek alphabet with its symbols that we use today.

## Why are Greek letters used in mathematical & scientific equations

There are several reasons why there are many Greek letters that have been adopted into common use for constants in equations.

First, of course, it is necessary to realise that many of our standard letters are widely used, especially for variables: x, y, z are some common examples, but others are used as well.

Many letters from the Greek alphabet are used as constants within equations and formulas. Π, Θ , as well as α, β, θ and the like are widely used and seen seen representing the values or constants for a variety of values.

The roots of the usage of Greek letters comes from the earliest philosophers like Aristotle, and Diophantus and others. They used letters from the Greek alphabet as symbols to represent various variables. Although later civilisations used their own letters, the use of Greek letters tended to be used down the ages - people tended to use what was already established.

Today there are advantages to using Greek alphabet symbols. They are more distinctive than the normal alphabet in everyday use and they are less likely to be confused with the language text within mathematical work being written.

It is really a matter of convenience as well as the reduction of confusion that has lead to the continued use of Greek alphabet symbols being used to represent constants and sometimes variables in equations.

The Greek alphabet symbols and characters have a central position for use as constants within the whole of the scientific arena from physicals and chemistry to more specific areas including electronics and electronics engineering. Wherever in the scientific space, from school to university and research to the application of science, Greek alphabet symbols will be encountered.