Greek Gamma Symbol, The 3rd Letter Of The Greek Alphabet

Today, as we are giving a start to our series of articles on the letters of the Greek alphabet, we will be taking a detailed look into the Gamma symbol, its meaning, origins and uses throughout history.

Science and Mathematics as we know them today have deep Greek origins. With its complex government system and rich architecture, Greece is actually considered as an exceptional model of mathematic and scientific achievement until today.

Ancient scholars in and out of Greece needed a means to communicate their studies, theories, formulas, and findings. So, they widely conversed in Greek and Latin. To maintain universality, scholars published their work and ideas using those two languages.

Because of this, understanding between scholars was possible even though their native languages were different.

Variables used in scientific and mathematical formulas and solutions required symbols that will represent them in writing. Whenever scholars needed a symbol to represent a new finding or idea, the Greek alphabet proved to be the most viable source of symbols.

As the third letter of the Greek alphabet, gamma (γάμμα ) has also been utilized to represent various mathematical and scientific concepts, from specific gravity to complex propagation constants. In this post, we take a look at the origins, meanings, and uses of the Greek gamma letter.


Origins of the Gamma Symbol

The Greek letter Gamma is written as  (Γ) in uppercase and (γ) in lowercase. It is known to have been derived from the Phoenician letter representing the /g/ phoneme, (𐤂‎ gīml). As such, it is also related to the Hebrew letter gimel that is represented by the symbol ג. 

Based on its name “gamma”, it has been thought to represent a camel’s neck. However, this interpretation is widely challenged. Some believe that the letter was actually derived from an Egyptian hieroglyph that represented a throwing stick or club.

In the Greek numeral system, gamma represents the value of 3. Furthermore, gamma represents the “g” sound in both Ancient and Modern Greek. 

Some letters in other alphabets were also derived from gamma. These are the Roman C and the Cyrillic  Г.


Various Uses of the Gamma Symbol in Modern Math and Science

Typically, when Greek letters such as the gamma are used in science or math, their form is somehow different from the letter used in the Greek alphabet. The reason for this is isolation and distinction from other concepts that may also use the gamma as their symbolism basis.

Uses of the Lowercase Gamma Symbol

The most common and popular use for the lowercase gamma (γ) is related to radiation. Specifically, the Gamma radiation. It is also used in neuroscience as the Gamma waves, a type of brain wave.

It is also used to represent chromatic number in graph theory. It also represents the photon, which is a type of elementary particle found in light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation. In materials science, the gamma symbolizes surface energy.

Meanwhile, the gamma also plays a significant part in the theory of relativity, as it represents the Lorentz factor. 

Gamma also has multiple uses in thermodynamics, where it represents heat capacity ratio and activity coefficient. On the other hand, it symbolizes gyromagnetic ratio in electromagnetism. It also symbolizes the propagation constant of electromagnetic waves.

In mathematics, the lowercase gamma represents the Euler-Mascheroni constant.

The lowercase gamma is also used in civil and mechanical engineering. It represents specific weight, as well as the solid solution of iron, Austenite. 

Uses of the Uppercase Gamma Symbol

The uppercase gamma (Γ) also has various uses in different fields. In mathematics, it is popularly used for the gamma function, which represents the extension of the factorial in complex numbers. Uppercase gamma is also used to signify upper incomplete gamma function, as well as P-adic gamma function.

Meanwhile, in differential geometry, the uppercase gamma is used to represent Christoffel symbols. 

In statistics and probability theory, it is used for the gamma distribution. Uppercase gamma also represents the reflection coefficient in electrical engineering and physics. 

In fluid mechanics, circulation is symbolized by an uppercase gamma.

The Greek symbol is also used in inorganic chemistry to represent a molecule’s symmetry elements. The uppercase gamma also symbolizes the decay width of a particle. It also signifies the typing environment in a type system, as well as a Turing machine’s tape alphabet.

How to Type and Insert the Gamma Symbol

Because of the wide range of usage for the Greek gamma symbol, one may eventually find the need to type and insert its lower and uppercase forms in documents and web pages. Here are ways to type and insert the gamma symbol when using a computer.

Alt Codes for the Gamma Symbol

ALT codes can be used and entered directly on many programs, including Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop. However, not all ALT codes work on all programs. Certain keyboards also do not allow the entry of ALT codes. Regardless, you can try the following steps to enter a lowercase and uppercase gamma letter in your document.

  • Make sure the NUM LOCK is turned on.
  • Press the ALT key, then type 947 for the lowercase gamma sign, and 226 or 915 for the uppercase symbol.

The Insert Function

For Office applications such as Word and PowerPoint, and other similar apps, you can simply use the Insert tab.

  • Go to the Insert tab, then click Symbol. The Symbol dialog box will pop up.
  • Look for the Font dropdown, then choose Symbol as the font.
  • Then, look for the symbol you need to insert, which is the uppercase or lowercase gamma. 
  • Click Insert, then click on X at the upper right corner of the dialog box to close it.

HTML Codes for the Gamma Symbol

Meanwhile, if you are creating a web page and allowed to create an HTML document, you can use the following HTML codes:


  • Uppercase Gamma: Γ or Γ
  • Lowercase Gamma: γ or γ


Unicodes for the Gamma Symbol

Furthermore, you can also use unicode text to enter gamma symbols. Here are the steps:

  • Place the cursor in the spot where you need to insert a gamma letter.
  • Type 0393 to insert an uppercase gamma and 03B3 for a lowercase gamma.
  • Then, press Alt+X.
  • The code should automatically change to show the respective gamma letter.

This wraps up our piece on the Gamma symbol, its meaning, uses and origins. If you are interested in reading about other Greek letters, please check out our other articles in the relevant section through the top menu.

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