Today, we are carrying our article series on Greek letters and examining the Beta symbol, the second letter in the Greek alphabet, its meanings and uses in science and math.
The Greek Beta Symbol and Its Origins
Beta (uppercase Β, lowercase β, or cursive ϐ; Ancient Greek: βῆτα; Modern Greek: βήτα) is the second letter of the Greek alphabet. Just like the rest of the Greek alphabet letters, Beta is also found in the Greek numeral system, representing the value of 2.
The name of the Greek Beta letter is thought to have been derived from bait, which is the acrophonic name of its Phoenician alphabet counterpart, beth.
In Ancient Greek, the name Beta was spelled βῆτα and pronounced as [bɛ̂ːta]. Meanwhile, in modern Greek monotonic orthography, it is now spelled as βήτα and pronounced as [ˈvita].
Among the Greek letters, the Beta symbol has the most number of local variations. There are also letters that have been derived from Beta: the Cyrillic letters ⟨Б⟩ and ⟨В⟩ and the Latin letter B.
How the Greek Beta Symbol is Used in the Modern Age
Similar to other Greek alphabet letters, Beta is also used as a symbol. However, because the uppercase Beta letter practically looks like the Latin letter B used globally, it was not as widely adopted to symbolize concepts and values.
The Beta sign is used in finance as a measure of risk in an investment portfolio. In this context, Beta is calculated as the covariance of an investment portfolio’s returns with its benchmark’s returns, then divided by the variance of the benchmark’s returns.
For instance, a beta of 1.5 in an investment portfolio essentially means that for every 1 percent change in the benchmark’s value, the portfolio’s value has a tendency to change by 1.5 percent.
In math and science, the Beta symbol is often used to represent a variable. As such, its meaning differs depending on the application.
For instance, in physics, Beta represents beta rays or beta radiation. This refers to the stream of unbound energetic electrons.
Meanwhile, the uppercase Beta symbol is used to denote nonstandardized partial slope coefficients, while the lowercase Beta sign denotes standardized coefficients (standard deviation-score form).
The lowercase Beta symbol is also used in place of an ordinal number in case the lowercase Alpha (α) has already been used.
The term Beta is also used in “beta angle”, which describes the angle between a spacecraft’s orbit plane and the vector from the sun.
In statistics, the Beta symbol represents the regression slope of type II error. Meanwhile, in computer science, the Beta sign is used to represent software release life cycle.
The Different Uses of Beta as a Term
Because of its position in the Greek alphabet, Beta has become widely associated with the order, second. Furthermore, among its most popular use as a term is in computer science, where it is used to represent a program or software that is currently in its testing phase.
In modern slang, the term Beta has come to be used as an adjective that describes a person who displays behaviors that are associated with being undesirable and confrontational. For example, a “beta male” is the opposite of an “alpha male” and as such, doesn’t exhibit any of the dominant qualities of an alpha.
In meteorology, the name Beta was used for Hurricane Beta that rummaged the southwestern Caribbean in October 2005 during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. It was the first time that Beta was used to name a tropical cyclone.
Hurricane Beta was the seventh and last major hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. When it was still forming as a tropical depression, it was called Tropical Depression Twenty-Six, until it got upgraded to Tropical Storm Beta.
Eventually, the tropical storm got strong enough to be classified as a cyclone. However, although the 2005 Hurricane Beta was a strong one, the name Beta was not retired as the hurricane committee thought that retiring a Greek letter name from the list of hurricane names was impractical.
How to Type the Beta Symbol
As the Beta sign has various uses as a symbol, you may find the need to type or insert it into documents sooner or later. Fortunately, there are different ways to add Greek alphabet letters, such as Beta, into electronic documents.
How to Type the Beta Symbol in Word
Should you need to type the Greek alphabet letter Beta in a Word document, you can use three different methods.
The first method utilizes the ALT keyboard shortcut. If you’re using a full keyboard with the numeric keypad, then this will prove to be the fastest way to add the Beta sign into your document.
To use the keyboard shortcut, press and hold the ALT key, then press the following numbers/codes for the respective symbols:
- 225 for the lowercase Beta
- 976 for the cursive lowercase Beta
- 914 for the uppercase Beta
The other two methods call for the use of the Insert function in Word.
Go to Insert > Equation. Then, from the list of symbols, locate Beta, then press Enter.
For the other method, go to Insert > Symbol > More Symbols to open the Symbol dialog box. On the Subset field, choose Greek and Coptic.
Then, choose the Beta symbol you need from the selection of symbols. Click Insert, then close the dialog box.
How to Insert the Beta Symbol in Excel
If you need to insert the upper or lowercase Beta letter into an Excel file, you can also use the Insert method. Simply follow the steps described above for inserting it into a Word document.
Another easy way is to copy the Beta symbols from a source, then paste it onto your Excel sheet. You may copy these [Β, β, ϐ].
How to Type the Beta Symbol on Mac
If you’re using a Mac computer and you need to add or type the Beta sign, you can also use a keyboard shortcut, as you would when typing other letters from the Greek alphabet.
To type the lowercase Beta, simply press and hold the following keys: CTRL + G + B. Then, release them at the same time.
If you need the uppercase Beta, hit the CAPS LOCK key first before doing the keyboard shortcut. It’s that easy!