Physics Study Guide/Greek alphabet

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Physics Study Guide (Print Version)
Units Linear Motion Force Momentum Normal Force and Friction Work Energy
Torque & Circular Motion Fluids Fields Gravity Waves Wave overtones Standing Waves Sound
Thermodynamics Electricity Magnetism Optics
Physical Constants Frictional Coefficients Greek Alphabet Logarithms Vectors and Scalars Other Topics

About the Common uses in Physics[edit]

While these are indeed common usages, it should be pointed out that there are many other usages and that other letters are used for the same purpose. The reason is quite simple: there are only so many symbols in the Greek and Latin alphabets, and scientists and mathematicians generally do not use symbols from other languages. It is a common trap to associate a symbol exclusively with some particular meaning, rather than learning and understanding the physics and relations behind it.


Greek Alphabet
Lower case Capital Name Common use in Physics
alpha Angular acceleration
Linear expansion
Coefficient
Alpha particle (helium nucleus)
Fine Structure Constant
beta Beta particle — high energy electron
Sound intensity
gamma Gamma ray (high energy EM wave)
Ratio of heat capacities (in an ideal gas)
Relativistic correction factor
delta Δ="Change in"
δ="Infinitesimal change in"
epsilon Emissivity
Strain
Permittivity
EMF
zeta (no common use)
eta Viscosity
Energy efficiency
theta Angle (°, rad)
Temperature
iota The lower case is rarely used, while is sometimes used for the identity matrix or the moment of inertia. Note that is not to be confused with the Roman character (which has a dot and is much more widely used in mathematics and physics).
kappa Spring constant
Dielectric constant
lambda Wavelength
Thermal conductivity
Constant
Eigenvalue of a matrix
Linear density
mu Coefficient of friction
Electrical mobility
Reduced mass
Permeability
nu Frequency
xi Damping cofficient
omicron (no common use)
pi Product symbol
Circle number
rho Volume density
Resistivity
sigma Sum symbol
Boltzmann constant
Electrical conductivity
Uncertainty
Stress
Surface density
tau Torque
Tau particle (a lepton)
Time constant
upsilon mass to light ratio
phi Magnetic/electric flux
Angle (°, rad)
chi Rabi frequency (lasers)
Susceptibility
psi Wave function
omega Ohms (unit of electrical resistance)
ω Angular velocity

See Also[edit]

Greek alphabet on the Wikipedia missionaries of the sacred heart