Epsilon (, ; ;
uppercase Letter case is the distinction between the letters Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or ...
lowercase Letter case is the distinction between the letters Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or ...
lunate Lunate is a crescent or moon-shaped microlith A microlith is a small Rock (geology), stone tool usually made of flint or chert and typically a centimetre or so in length and half a centimetre wide. They were made by humans from around 35,000 to ...
; el, έψιλον) is the fifth letter of the
Greek alphabet 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 ...

Greek alphabet
, corresponding phonetically to a
mid front unrounded vowel The mid front unrounded vowel is a type of vowel A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Sy ...
. In the system of Greek numerals it also has the value five. It was derived from the Phoenician alphabet, Phoenician letter He (letter), He . Letters that arose from epsilon include the Roman E, Ë and Latin epsilon, Ɛ, and Cyrillic Ye (Cyrillic), Е, Ye with grave, È, Yo (Cyrillic), Ё, Ukrainian Ye, Є and E (Cyrillic), Э. The name of the letter was originally (), but it was later changed to ( 'simple e') in the Middle Ages to distinguish the letter from the digraph (orthography), digraph , a former diphthong that had come to be pronounced the same as epsilon. The uppercase form of epsilon looks identical to Latin E but has its own code point in Unicode: . The lowercase version has two typographical variants, both inherited from history of the Greek alphabet, medieval Greek handwriting. One, the most common in modern typography and inherited from medieval minuscule, looks like a reversed number "3" and is encoded . The other, also known as lunate or uncial script, uncial epsilon and inherited from earlier uncial writing,Nick Nicholas
, 2003–2008. (''Greek Unicode Issues'')
looks like a semicircle crossed by a horizontal bar: it is encoded . While in normal typography these are just alternative font variants, they may have different meanings as mathematical symbols: computer systems therefore offer distinct encodings for them. In TeX, \epsilon ( \epsilon\! ) denotes the lunate form, while \varepsilon ( \varepsilon\! ) denotes the reversed-3 form. There is also a 'Latin epsilon', or "open e", which looks similar to the Greek lowercase epsilon. It is encoded in Unicode as and and is used as an International Phonetic Alphabet, IPA phonetic symbol. The lunate or uncial epsilon provided inspiration for the euro sign, . The lunate epsilon, , is not to be confused with the set membership symbol ; nor should the Latin uppercase epsilon, , be confused with the Greek uppercase (sigma). The symbol \in, first used in set theory and logic by Giuseppe Peano and now used in mathematics in general for set membership ("belongs to") evolved from the letter epsilon, since the symbol was originally used as an abbreviation for the Latin word . In addition, mathematicians often read the symbol as "element of", as in "1 is an element of the natural numbers" for 1\in\N, for example. As late as 1960, ε itself was used for set membership, while its negation "does not belong to" (now ) was denoted by (epsilon prime). Only gradually did a fully separate, stylized symbol take the place of epsilon in this role. In a related context, Peano also introduced the use of a backwards epsilon, , for the phrase "such that", although the abbreviation ''s.t.'' is occasionally used in place of ϶ in informal cardinals.



The letter Ε was taken over from the Phoenician alphabet, Phoenician letter He (letter), He () when Greeks first adopted alphabetic writing. In archaic Greek writing, its shape is often still identical to that of the Phoenician letter. Like other Greek letters, it could face either leftward or rightward (), depending on the current writing direction, but, just as in Phoenician, the horizontal bars always faced in the direction of writing. Archaic writing often preserves the Phoenician form with a vertical stem extending slightly below the lowest horizontal bar. In the classical era, through the influence of more cursive writing styles, the shape was simplified to the current E glyph.

Sound value

While the original pronunciation of the Phoenician letter ''He'' was , the earliest Greek sound value of Ε was determined by the vowel occurring in the Phoenician letter name, which made it a natural choice for being reinterpreted from a consonant symbol to a vowel symbol denoting an sound.Jeffery, ''Local scripts'', p.24. Besides its classical Greek sound value, the short phoneme, it could initially also be used for other -like sounds. For instance, in early Attic Greek, Attic before c. 500 BC, it was used also both for the long, open-mid vowel, open , and for the long close-mid vowel, close . In the former role, it was later replaced in the classic Greek alphabet by Eta (Η), which was taken over from eastern Ionic Greek, Ionic alphabets, while in the latter role it was replaced by the digraph (orthography), digraph spelling ΕΙ.

Epichoric alphabets

Some dialects used yet other ways of distinguishing between various e-like sounds. In Ancient Corinth, Corinth, the normal function of Ε to denote and was taken by a glyph resembling a pointed B (), while Ε was used only for long close .Jeffery, ''Local scripts'', p.114. The letter Beta, in turn, took the deviant shape . In Sicyon, a variant glyph resembling an X () was used in the same function as Corinthian .Jeffery, ''Local scripts'', p.138. In Thespiai (Boeotia), a special letter form consisting of a vertical stem with a single rightward-pointing horizontal bar () was used for what was probably a close vowel, raised variant of in pre-vocalic environments.Jeffery, ''Local scripts'', p.89. This tack glyph was used elsewhere also as a form of "Heta", i.e. for the sound .

Glyph variants

After the establishment of the canonical classical Ionian (Eucleidean)
Greek alphabet 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 ...

Greek alphabet
, new glyph variants for Ε were introduced through handwriting. In the uncial script (used for literary papyrus manuscripts in late antiquity and then in early medieval vellum codices), the "lunate" shape () became predominant. In cursive handwriting, a large number of shorthand glyphs came to be used, where the cross-bar and the curved stroke were linked in various ways. Some of them resembled a modern lowercase Latin "e", some a "6" with a connecting stroke to the next letter starting from the middle, and some a combination of two small "c"-like curves. Several of these shapes were later taken over into minuscule Greek, minuscule book hand. Of the various minuscule letter shapes, the inverted-3 form became the basis for lower-case Epsilon in Greek typography during the modern era.


International Phonetic Alphabet

Despite its pronunciation as mid front unrounded vowel, mid, in the International Phonetic Alphabet, the Latin epsilon represents open-mid front unrounded vowel, as in the English word ''pet'' .


The uppercase Epsilon is not commonly used outside of the Greek language because of its similarity to the Latin alphabet, Latin letter E. However, it is commonly used in structural mechanics with Young's Modulus equations for calculating tensile, compressive and areal Deformation (mechanics), strain. The Greek lowercase epsilon , the lunate epsilon symbol , or the Latin epsilon, Latin lowercase epsilon (see above) is used in a variety of places: *In engineering mechanics, strain calculations ϵ = increase of length / original length. Usually this relates to extensometer testing of metallic materials. *In mathematics **(particularly calculus), an arbitrarily small positive quantity is commonly denoted ε; see (ε, δ)-definition of limit. ***In reference to this, the late mathematician Paul Erdős also used the term "epsilons" to refer to children (Paul Hoffman (science writer), Hoffman 1998, p. 4). **David Hilbert, Hilbert introduced epsilon terms \epsilon x.\phi as an extension to first order logic; see epsilon calculus. ** it is used to represent the Levi-Civita symbol. ** it is used to represent dual numbers: ''a'' + ''bε'', with ''ε''2 = 0 and ''ε'' ≠ 0. ** it is sometimes used to denote the Heaviside step function. ** in set theory, the epsilon numbers (mathematics), epsilon numbers are ordinal numbers that satisfy the Fixed point (mathematics), fixed point ε = ωε. The first epsilon number, ε0, is the limit ordinal of the set . ** in numerical analysis and statistics it is used as the error term ** in group theory it is used as the idempotent group when e is in use as a variable name *In computer science, it often represents the empty string, though different writers use a variety of other symbols for the empty string as well; usually the lower-case Greek letter lambda (λ). *In computer science, the machine epsilon indicates the upper bound on the relative error due to rounding in floating point arithmetic. *In physics, **it indicates the permittivity of a medium; with the subscript 0 (ε0) it is the permittivity of free space. **it can also indicate the Strain (materials science), strain of a material (a ratio of extensions). *In automata theory, it shows a transition that involves no shifting of an input symbol. *In astronomy, **it stands for the fifth-brightest star in a constellation (see Bayer designation). **Epsilon is the name for the most distant and most visible ring of Uranus. **In planetary science, ε denotes the axial tilt. *In chemistry, it represents the molar extinction coefficient of a chromophore. *In economics, ε refers to elasticity (economics), elasticity. *In statistics, **it is used to refer to Errors and residuals in statistics, error terms. ** it also can to refer to the degree of Mauchly's sphericity test, sphericity in Repeated measures design, repeated measures ANOVAs. *In agronomy, it is used to represent the "photosynthetic efficiency" of a particular plant or crop.


* Greek Epsilon * Coptic Eie * Latin Open E * Mathematical Epsilon 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.


File:Lectionary 226 GA 0020b Epsilon.JPG, Initial epsilon in Lectionary 226, folio 20 recto and verso, verso File:Lectionary 226 (GA) Epsilon 0064b.JPG, folio 64 verso File:Lectionary 226 GA 0125b Epsilon.JPG, folio 125 verso


Further reading

*Paul Hoffman (science writer), Hoffman, Paul; ''The Man Who Loved Only Numbers''. Hyperion, 1998. {{ISBN, 0-7868-6362-5. Greek letters Vowel letters