Beta Symbol And Its Meaning – The Greek Beta Sign And Its Uses

In today’s symbolism piece, we are having a detailed look into another ancient Greek symbol widely used throughout various scientific areas as well as our daily lives. What does the beta symbol mean? What is the story behind its origins? Read it all in this article about the beta symbol, its meaning, history and uses in math and science. 

Beta is the second letter in the Greek alphabet and is transliterated as “b” in classical Greek. However, in modern Greek, it is written as v (vita).

Beta Symbol, The Second Letter in Greek Alphabet – ©Niakris6 at ShutterStock

Like all Greek alphabets, the beta symbol has an uppercase as well as a lowercase form, and in fact, it also has a cursive form.

  • The uppercase form of beta is represented as the Latin capital letter B.
  • The lowercase beta is denoted by
  • The cursive beta symbol is written as ϐ

However, besides its standard forms, the letter B has the largest number of local variations, and people from Gortyn, Argos, Thera, Megara, Byzantium, Melos, Corinth, and Cyclades all used widely different forms, with the most notable difference in the Cycladic beta, which was written simply as “C.”

The beta sign represents the value of 2 in the Greek numeral system.

Origin of the Beta Symbol

Like most other Greek letters, the name “beta” was derived from its corresponding letter in Phoenician, also known as the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, once spoken in the Mediterranean region. Etymologically, the term means “house” in various Semitic languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, and Phoenician, and it seems to originate from an Egyptian hieroglyph of a house.

Other letters that were born from the beta symbol include the Cyrillic letters “Б” and “В.”

Uses of the Beta Symbol

In mathematics, the beta symbol is used to denote a number of variables with specific meanings. 

In regression analysis, both B and are used: represents the standardized coefficients, while B represents the un-standardized partial slope coefficients. 

In statistics, it may refer to a type II error, or it may simply be used in place of an ordinal number if α has already been used for another number.

In the field of finance, the beta sign is the measure of an investment security’s volatility of return in relation to the stock market, and it is used to calculate risk. A company with a high beta has a higher risk but also greater returns. 

In computer science, beta is the stage of software development that comes after the alpha stage. In this stage, the software, known as betaware, is feature-complete, but requires some improvements and fixes for bugs and glitches before its release.

In chemistry, the beta sign is used in naming a class of certain medications. These drugs are called beta-blockers or β-blockers, and are used to treat hypertension and abnormal heartbeats.

In orbital spaceflight, the beta angle is the angle between a satellite’s orbit plane and the sun’s vector. This is used to determine how much time a satellite, whether it is a spacecraft or a planet, spends in direct sunlight.

In 2005, a tropical cyclone in the southwestern Caribbean was named as hurricane Beta.

If you are into rock climbing and mountaineering, you know that beta is a climbing jargon that refers to information or advice about a climb. Depending on its complexity, the beta can range from a tiny hint or a step-by-step guide for a complicated venture. This may include information about the difficulty of the climb, length, style, quality of the rock, required equipment, availability of the water, and descent information.

In colloquial terms, the word beta is used to commonly describe a male who is not dominant (unlike an alpha), uninspiring, lacks confidence and magnetism, and does not actively participate in social gatherings. It also sometimes refers to the second-in-command, especially in packs of animals like wolves.