The Omicron Variant

As a theoretical physicist I use Greek characters all the time in mathematical work but, being very slow on the uptake, I only just realized a few days ago that the name of the Greek letter ‘omicron’ (ο) is derived from the Greek meaning ‘little-o’ while the name ‘omega’ means ‘big o’.

More recently still a Greek friend of mine pointed out that the lower-case symbol for omega (ω) was originally formed as ‘oo’, i.e. double-o.

In modern Greek ο and ω are pronounced the same but in ancient Greek the vocalisation of ω was longer than that of ο, suggesting that οmicron is more like short ‘o’ than little ‘o’ while omega is long `o’ rather than big ‘o’.

Incidentally, I was brought up to pronounce π like “pie” but in most of Europe (including Greece) it is pronounced “pee”. It is in fact the Greek letter ‘p’. I feel I’ve been delta very weak hand when it comes to Greek pronunciation and I’ll beta majority of theoretical physicists feel the same. I think we need to take a nu approach in schools, and rho back from the old ways. Anyway I’m going home now to eta bit of curry for supper…

4 Responses to “The Omicron Variant”

  1. Try not to rho your eyes and dip your nu and beta finger too many times into the curry π when you eta supper!

    Yours sincerely,
    SoundEagle

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    Don’t be too buZETA enjoy yourself.

  3. Thanks! Now I feel stupid

  4. Let us put this info in good use: I suggest the use of \omicron() and \Omega() to express order of magnitudes instead of o() and O()…

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