Beta (letter)


Beta (letter)

Beta (uppercase Β, lowercase β, internal unicode|ϐ; _el. Βήτα [IPA|ˈviˑta] Vita) is the second letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 2. It was derived from the Phoenician letter Beth .

In high-quality print, a variant of the letter is sometimes used that does not have a descender except at the beginning of a word: “βίβλος” is written “βίUnicode|ϐλος”. Lowercase Unicode|ϐ is very common in handwriting though.

Ancient Greek

In Ancient Greek, Beta represented a IPA|/b/ and the name of the letter, polytonic|Βήτα, was pronounced something like IPA|/ˈbɛːta/. The name of the letter in English derives from this; the American pronunciation is IPAEng|ˈbeɪtə, whereas the British pronunciation is IPA|/ˈbiːtə/. See: American and British English pronunciation differences.

Modern Greek

In Modern Greek, it represents a voiced labiodental fricative IPA|/v/ and the Modern Greek name of the letter, Βήτα, is pronounced IPA2|ˈviˑta.

Use as a symbol or name

Beta is often used to denote a variable in mathematics and physics, where it often has specific meanings for certain applications, such as representing beta particles, and beta radiation.

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, Greek minuscule beta denotes a voiced bilabial fricative.

Common difficulties

In typesetting technical literature, it is a commonly made mistake to use the German letter ß as a replacement for the β. The two letters resemble each other superficially, but they are unrelated. This substitution looks extremely unprofessional to the eyes of German or Greek readers.

The Unicode number for β is U+03B2, and with β or β the β is coded in HTML.


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