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Beta ( UK: /ˈbtə/ , US: /ˈbtə/ ; uppercase Β, lowercase β, or cursive ϐ ; Ancient Greek : βῆτα, romanized: bē̂ta or Greek : βήτα, romanized: víta) is the second letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 2. In Ancient Greek, beta represented the voiced bilabial plosive /b/. In Modern Greek, it represents the voiced labiodental fricative /v/ (while /b/ in foreign words is instead commonly transcribed as μπ). Letters that arose from beta include the Roman letter B and the Cyrillic letters Б and В .



Like the names of most other Greek letters, the name of beta was adopted from the acrophonic name of the corresponding letter in Phoenician, which was the common Semitic word *bait ('house'). In Greek, the name was βῆταbêta, pronounced [bɛ̂ːta] in Ancient Greek. It is spelled βήτα in modern monotonic orthography and pronounced [ˈvita] .


The letter beta was derived from the Phoenician letter beth Phoenician beth.svg .

The letter Β had the largest number of highly divergent local forms. Besides the standard form (either rounded or pointed, Greek Beta 16.svg ), there were forms as varied as Greek Beta 12.svg (Gortyn), Greek Beta 01.svg and Greek Beta 10.svg (Thera), Greek Beta 03.svg (Argos), Greek Beta 05.svg (Melos), Greek Beta Corinth 1.svg (Corinth), Greek Beta Byzantium 1.svg (Megara, Byzantium), and Greek Gamma C-shaped.svg (Cyclades). [1]


The Greek alphabet on an ancient black figure vessel, with the characteristically angular beta of the time NAMA Alphabet grec.jpg
The Greek alphabet on an ancient black figure vessel, with the characteristically angular beta of the time

Algebraic numerals

In the system of Greek numerals, beta has a value of 2. Such use is denoted by a number mark: Β′.



Beta is used in finance as a measure of investment portfolio risk. Beta in this context is calculated as the covariance of the portfolio's returns with its benchmark's returns, divided by the variance of the benchmark's returns. A beta of 1.5 means that for every 1% change in the value of the benchmark, the portfolio's value tends to change by 1.5%.

International Phonetic Alphabet

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

A superscript version may also indicate a compressed vowel, like [ɯᵝ].


The name Beta was used as a name during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as Hurricane Beta. It was also used in the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season for Tropical Storm Beta.

Mathematics and science

Beta is often used to denote a variable in mathematics and physics, where it often has specific meanings for certain applications. In physics a stream of unbound energetic electrons is commonly referred to as beta radiation or beta rays. In regression analysis, B symbolizes nonstandardized partial slope coefficients, whereas β represents standardized (standard deviation-score form) coefficients; in both cases, the coefficients reflect the change in the criterion Y per one-unit change in the value of the associated predictor X. β is also used in biology, for instance in β-Carotene, a primary source of provitamin A, or the β cells in pancreatic islets, which produce insulin.

β is sometimes used as a placeholder for an ordinal number if α is already used. For example, the two roots of a quadratic equation are typically labelled α and β.

In spaceflight, beta angle describes the angle between the orbit plane of a spacecraft or other body and the vector from the sun.

β is sometimes used to mean the proton-to-electron mass ratio.

Rock climbing terminology

The term "beta" refers to advice on how to successfully complete a particular climbing route, boulder problem, or crux sequence. [2]


The term "beta" has become a common adjective used colloquially to describe someone who is displaying behaviours that classify them as unremarkable and confrontational, often lacking charisma and confidence. It is often used in the phrase "beta male," which is used to describe a person of the male gender who does not assert any dominant "alpha actions" into their character, such as lurking a group chat online without participating or substantial lacking of social awareness.


In statistics, beta may represent type II error, or regression slope.


In some high-quality typesetting, especially in the French tradition, a typographic variant of the lowercase letter without a descender is used within a word for ancient Greek: βίβλος is printed βίϐλος. [3]

In typesetting technical literature, it is a commonly made mistake to use the German letter ß (a s–z or s–s ligature) as a replacement for β. The two letters resemble each other in some fonts, but they are unrelated. [4]

Videotape formats

"Beta" can be used to refer to several consumer and professional videotape formats developed by Japan's Sony Corporation. Although similarly named, they are very different in function and obsolescence.

Character encodings

Character information
Unicode 914U+0392946U+03B2976U+03D07517U+1D5D7526U+1D66
UTF-8 206 146CE 92206 178CE B2207 144CF 90225 181 157E1 B5 9D225 181 166E1 B5 A6
Numeric character reference ΒΒββϐϐᵝᵝᵦᵦ
Named character reference Ββ
DOS Greek1298115399
DOS Greek-2165A5215D7
Windows 1253194C2226E2
  • Latin Beta
Character information
Unicode 42932U+A7B442933U+A7B5
UTF-8 234 158 180EA 9E B4234 158 181EA 9E B5
Numeric character reference ꞴꞴꞵꞵ
  • Mathematical Beta
Character information
Unicode 120489U+1D6A9120515U+1D6C3120547U+1D6E3120573U+1D6FD120605U+1D71D120631U+1D737
UTF-8 240 157 154 169F0 9D 9A A9240 157 155 131F0 9D 9B 83240 157 155 163F0 9D 9B A3240 157 155 189F0 9D 9B BD240 157 156 157F0 9D 9C 9D240 157 156 183F0 9D 9C B7
UTF-16 55349 57001D835 DEA955349 57027D835 DEC355349 57059D835 DEE355349 57085D835 DEFD55349 57117D835 DF1D55349 57143D835 DF37
Numeric character reference 𝚩𝚩𝛃𝛃𝛣𝛣𝛽𝛽𝜝𝜝𝜷𝜷
Character information
Unicode 120663U+1D757120689U+1D771120721U+1D791120747U+1D7AB
UTF-8 240 157 157 151F0 9D 9D 97240 157 157 177F0 9D 9D B1240 157 158 145F0 9D 9E 91240 157 158 171F0 9D 9E AB
UTF-16 55349 57175D835 DF5755349 57201D835 DF7155349 57233D835 DF9155349 57259D835 DFAB
Numeric character reference 𝝗𝝗𝝱𝝱𝞑𝞑𝞫𝞫

These characters are used only as mathematical symbols. Stylized Greek text should be encoded using the normal Greek letters, with markup and formatting to indicate text style.

Related Research Articles

Delta is the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 4. It was derived from the Phoenician letter dalet 𐤃, Letters that come from delta include Latin D and Cyrillic Д.

Epsilon is the fifth letter of the Greek alphabet, corresponding phonetically to a mid front unrounded vowel. In the system of Greek numerals it also has the value five. It was derived from the Phoenician letter He . Letters that arose from epsilon include the Roman E, Ë and Ɛ, and Cyrillic Е, È, Ё, Є and Э.

Eta is the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet. Originally denoting a consonant /h/, its sound value in the classical Attic dialect of Ancient Greek was a long vowel, raised to [i] in hellenistic Greek, a process known as iotacism.

Gamma letter in the Greek alphabet

Gamma is the third letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 3. In Ancient Greek, the letter gamma represented a voiced velar stop. In Modern Greek, this letter represents either a voiced velar fricative or a voiced palatal fricative.

Iota is the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet. It was derived from the Phoenician letter Yodh. Letters that arose from this letter include the Latin I and J, the Cyrillic І, Yi, and Je, and iotated letters.

Lambda Letter in the Greek alphabet

Lambda is the 11th letter of the Greek alphabet, representing the sound /l/. In the system of Greek numerals lambda has a value of 30. Lambda is derived from the Phoenician Lamed . Lambda gave rise to the Latin L and the Cyrillic El (Л). The ancient grammarians and dramatists give evidence to the pronunciation as [laːbdaː] (λάβδα) in Classical Greek times. In Modern Greek the name of the letter, Λάμδα, is pronounced [ˈlam.ða].

Phi is the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet.

Nu is the 13th letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 50. It is derived from the ancient Phoenician language nun . Its Latin equivalent is N, though the lowercase resembles the Roman lowercase v.

Mu or my is the 12th letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 40. Mu was derived from the Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol for water, which had been simplified by the Phoenicians and named after their word for water, to become 𐤌 (mem). Letters that derive from mu include the Roman M and the Cyrillic М.

Theta is the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet, derived from the Phoenician letter Teth . In the system of Greek numerals it has the value 9.

San (letter) archaic letter of the Greek alphabet

San (Ϻ) was an archaic letter of the Greek alphabet. Its shape was similar to modern M, or to a modern Greek Sigma (Σ) turned sideways, and it was used as an alternative to Sigma to denote the sound. Unlike Sigma, whose position in the alphabet is between Rho and Tau, San appeared between Pi and Qoppa in alphabetic order. In addition to denoting this separate archaic character, the name "San" was also used as an alternative name to denote the standard letter Sigma.

Sigma is the eighteenth letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals, it has a value of 200. In general mathematics, uppercase is used as an operator for summation. When used at the end of a letter-case word, the final form (ς) is used. In Ὀδυσσεύς (Odysseus), for example, note the two lowercase sigmas (σ) in the center of the name and the word-final sigma (ς) at the end.

Kappa Letter in the Greek alphabet

Kappa is the 10th letter of the Greek alphabet, used to represent the [] sound in Ancient and Modern Greek. In the system of Greek numerals, has a value of 20. It was derived from the Phoenician letter kaph . Letters that arose from kappa include the Roman K and Cyrillic К.

Rho is the 17th letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 100. It is derived from Phoenician letter res . Its uppercase form uses the same glyph, Ρ, as the distinct Latin letter P; the two letters have different Unicode encodings.

Be (Cyrillic) Cyrillic letter

Be is a letter of the Cyrillic script. It commonly represents the voiced bilabial plosive, like the English pronunciation of ⟨b⟩ in "ball". It should not be confused with the Cyrillic letter Ve (В в), which is shaped like Latin capital letter B but represents the voiced labiodental fricative.

The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or early eighth century BC. It is derived from the earlier Phoenician alphabet, and was the first alphabetic script in history to have distinct letters for vowels as well as consonants. In Archaic and early Classical times, the Greek alphabet existed in many local variants, but, by the end of the fourth century BC, the Euclidean alphabet, with twenty-four letters, ordered from alpha to omega, had become standard and it is this version that is still used to write Greek today. These twenty-four letters are: Α α, Β β, Γ γ, Δ δ, Ε ε, Ζ ζ, Η η, Θ θ, Ι ι, Κ κ, Λ λ, Μ μ, Ν ν, Ξ ξ, Ο ο, Π π, Ρ ρ, Σ σ/ς, Τ τ, Υ υ, Φ φ, Χ χ, Ψ ψ, and Ω ω.

Greek letters are used in mathematics, science, engineering, and other areas where mathematical notation is used as symbols for constants, special functions, and also conventionally for variables representing certain quantities. In these contexts, the capital letters and the small letters represent distinct and unrelated entities. Those Greek letters which have the same form as Latin letters are rarely used: capital A, B, E, Z, H, I, K, M, N, O, P, T, Y, X. Small ι, ο and υ are also rarely used, since they closely resemble the Latin letters i, o and u. Sometimes font variants of Greek letters are used as distinct symbols in mathematics, in particular for ε/ϵ and π/ϖ. The archaic letter digamma (Ϝ/ϝ/ϛ) is sometimes used.

Beta is the second letter of the Greek alphabet.

In historical linguistics, betacism is a sound change in which and are confused. The final result of the process can be either /b/ → [v] or /v/ → [b]. Betacism is a fairly common phenomenon; it has taken place in Greek, Hebrew and several Romance languages.

B Letter of the Latin alphabet

B or b is the second letter of the Latin-script alphabet. Its name in English is bee, plural bees. It represents the voiced bilabial stop in many languages, including English. In some other languages, it is used to represent other bilabial consonants.


  1. Jeffery 1961, p. 23.
  2. Rock and Ice (3 October 2016). "Rock & Ice - Climbing Terminology".
  3. Haralambous, Yannis (1999). "From Unicode to typography, a case study: the Greek script" (PDF). p. 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-15.
  4. Aguilar Ruiz, Manuel José (2013). ""Las normas ortográficas y ortotipográficas de la nueva Ortografía de la lengua española (2010) aplicadas a las publicaciones biomédicas en español: una visión de conjunto" (PDF). Panace. 14 (37): 104.