# How did you learn the greek alphabet?

Moonbear
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
I'm starting my Master's in Mathematics and I don't even know it!

I just do whatever. I know alpha though. I used to say "x looking thing".
It's not an X...it's a fish!

JasonRox
Homework Helper
Gold Member
It's not an X...it's a fish!
lol

I'll say that next time.

I even called lamba (I think that's what it is) the "upside down y". I used to be horrible at writing greek letters so I'd start my problems with...

Let alpha = x and lamba = y, so et...

I actually lost marks one time!

Moonbear
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
lol

I'll say that next time.

I even called lamba (I think that's what it is) the "upside down y". I used to be horrible at writing greek letters so I'd start my problems with...

Let alpha = x and lamba = y, so et...

I actually lost marks one time!
Yes, it does look like an upside-down y. That's pretty sad to lose marks for writing out the words though. Maybe it's that little bit of right-brained artisticness that makes it easier for me to just match patterns when writing those letters. I could never just write out the Greek alphabet, but when I need to use a letter, I've never had much trouble writing it. It DOES suck when someone is lecturing and talking about either mu or nu though...it's hard to hear the difference...sort of like b vs d. Except I can say b as in boy, and d as in dog to make that clear. Mu as in...um...micro? :uhh:

I would lose points too, but all my homework is online, so I just grab a pic of the greek symbol, and that's it. I just plug it in, and there I am with the right answer, no problems at all

Kurdt
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
I can't remember where I encountered xi but it took me a few goes to get it. Now like moonie I take a sad pleasure in writing it.

The first time I encountered xi was in a differential equations lecture. At first I just stared at it confused, I was going to ask what that weird character was but didn't for fear of looking silly (I was the only freshman in the class), so I finally collected myself and made some attempts to write it down. I erased and rewrote it about five times and then tried to focus back on the lecture. I noticed that several more xis had a appeared so again it took several attempts to write all of them down. By then I was trailing far behind in the proof of the theorem, so I decided to transcribe the xis on the board as English "z"s in my notes. This worked for a while until the professor introduced z as something else. So then I went back to writing the xis...

At the end of the class, the proof became an incomprehensible entanglement of xis and zs in my notes and in my head.

Seriously, its not chinese....

jtbell
Mentor
I've never heard of anyone using upsilon, for example.
How many particle physicists do you know?

As for how I learned the Greek alphabet, I did it piecemeal as I encountered the letters. The textbook for the general-physics type course I was teaching this past semester has a table of the Greek alphabet, along with tables of physical constants, unit conversion factors etc. I'm sure my original textbooks must have had them, too.

Don't ask me to recite the Greek alphabet in order, though. Alpha, beta, gamma, delta, ...er, epsilon, um :uhh:... (sneak a peek) zeta???

Moonbear
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
H

Don't ask me to recite the Greek alphabet in order, though. Alpha, beta, gamma, delta, ...er, epsilon, um :uhh:... (sneak a peek) zeta???
:rofl: Yeah, there's a natural tendency to want to put zeta at the end. It's the only time going to church helped me, because I remember the quote "From alpha to omega, the beginning to the end..." from funeral masses, so remember omega is the last letter, not zeta.

A good friend of mine has his PhD in math...his dissertation exhausted the English and Greek alphabets and started delving into the Cyrillic and Arabic alphabets to have enough characters to use.

jtbell
Mentor
I was in grad school when the upsilon was discovered in 1977, so I remember some of the excitement surrounding it. That experiment at Fermilab under Leon Lederman had announced the previous year that they had discovered a new particle at a lower energy, which they called the "upsilon." A few months later it turned out not to exist after all, but was an artifact created by their data analysis procedure, so people re-dubbed it the "oops-Leon."

And then Leon came back the following year with the "real" upsilon.

I took a Latin for Sciences course, though I've seen plenty of greeks before that. Mostly in physics and math.

tiny-tim
Homework Helper
I just LOVE writing zeta and xi. The squiggles are fun.
I think zeta is boring … it needs a little loopy-thing in the middle to give it some personality.

But xi is great. I think it should just go on and on until you run out of room.
I also had a great deal of fun listening to my p-chem prof saying d$$\xi$$. I wish I was in Dixie, hurrah, hurrah.
Do you pronounce it ksee, then?

I was taught to say "ksigh".
(here's some blue-xi thinking … ξ )​

Do you pronounce it ksee, then? I was taught to say "ksigh".
I managed to get a masters in math without ever learning the Greek alphabet and to this day I don't know the names of all the letters. I just do pattern matching. Until your post, it never occured to me to think about how to pronounce this one. I can't even draw it, so I have created my own substitute shorthand version.

Chi Meson
Homework Helper
If you say "pie," then you say "ksigh." As well as "ch-high," "fie" and "psigh."

Otherwise it's "pee" "ksee" "ch-ee" "fee" and "psee." I think either is "correct enough," but one should remain consistant.

I am Ch-high Meson, and I approve this message.

how did you learn the "Greek" alphabet?

In physics, its pronounced the "Geek" alphabet

Chi Meson