Symbols in Physics

Hugh Fox Physics Vocabulary

Latin Symbols in Physics (items in bold are vectors)

a=acceleration (m/s2)

A=ampere (S.I. unit of current, fundamental)

A=amplitude (typically m)

B=magnetic field (T)

B=bulk modulus (N/m2)

c=specific heat capacity (J/(kg*K))

c=speed of light (m/s)

C=molar heat capacity (J/(mol*K))

C=coulomb (S.I. unit of charge = A*s)

cal=calorie (non-S.I. unit of energy = 4.186 J)

Cal=Calorie or kcal (non-S.I. unit of energy = 4186 J)

d=distance (m)

dB=decibels (non-S.I. unit of intensity)

e=magnitude of charge of an electron (C)

e=efficiency (dimensionless)

eV=electron-Volt (non-S.I. unit of energy = 1.60E-19 J)

E=energy (J)

E=electric field (N/C)

f=frequency (Hz. or s-1)

f=friction force (N)

f=focal length (m)

F=force (N)

F=farad, S.I. unit of capacitance = A2*s4/(kg*m2)

g=magnitude of free fall acceleration ≈ 9.80 m/s2

g=gram (non-S.I. unit of mass = 0.001 kg)

G=universal gravitational constant

h=Plank’s constant (6.63E-34 J*s)

h=height (m)

Hz=hertz, S.I. unit of frequency = s-1

i, I=current (A)

I=moment of inertia, kg*m2

I=intensity, W/m2

j=current density, A/m2

j=impulse, kg*m/s

J=joule, S.I. unit of energy = kg*m2/s2

k=Boltzmann’s constant, J/K

k=spring constant, N/m

k=thermal conductivity, W/(m*K)

k=wave number, rad/m

kg=kilogram, S.I. unit of mass, fundamental

K=kelvin, S.I. unit of temperature, fundamental

K=kinetic energy, J

l=length, m

L=liter, non-S.I. unit of volume

L=latent heat, J/kg

L=angular momentum (J*s)

m=mass, kg

m=meter (S.I. unit of distance)

n=index of refraction (dimensionless)

n=number of moles

N=number of particles

N=newton (S.I. unit of force = kg*m/s2)

N=normal force (N)

NA=Avogadro’s number

p=momentum (kg*m/s)

p, P=pressure (Pa = N/m2 = kg/(m*s2)

P=power (W)

q, Q=charge (C)

Q=heat (J)

r=radius variable (m)

R=fixed radius (m)

R=ideal gas constant (8.31 J/(mol*K))

R=resistance (Ω)

s=seconds (S.I. unit of time)

s=generic position, could be x, y, or z (m)

S=entropy (J/K)

t=time (s)

T=period (s)

T=temperature (K)

T=tension force (N)

T=tesla (S.I. unit of magnetic field)

u=atomic mass unit, non-S.I. unit of mass

u=energy density (J/m3)

U=potential energy (J)

v, v=velocity, speed (m/s)

V=volt (S.I. unit of potential)

V=potential (V)

V=voltage or potential difference (V), more correctly written as ΔV

V=volume (m3)

w, W=weight force (N)

W=watt (S.I. unit of power = kg*m2/s3)

W=work (J)

x=Cartesian coordinate (m)

y=Cartesian coordinate (m)

Y=Young’s modulus (N/m2)

z=Cartesian coordinate (m)



Greek Symbols in Physics

α=alpha=angular acceleration (rad/s2)

α=alpha=temperature coefficient of linear expansion (K-1)

β=beta=temperature coefficient of volume expansion (K-1)

γ=gamma=ratio of heat capacities (dimensionless)

γ=gamma=relativistic gamma factor (dimensionless)

Γ=gamma (capital)=

δ=delta=instantaneous change

Δ=delta (capital)=finite change



η=eta=efficiency (dimensionless)

θ=theta=angle (rad)

Θ=theta (capital)=


κ=kappa=dielectric constant (dimensionless)

λ=lambda=wavelength (m)

Λ=lambda (capital)=

μ=mu=coefficient of friction (dimensionless)



Ξ=xi (capital)=

π=pi=circumference/diameter ratio (dimensionless)

Π=pi (capital)=series product

ρ=rho=density (kg/m3)

ρ=rho=resistivity (Ω*m)

σ=sigma=Stefan-Boltzmann constant

Σ=sigma (capital)=series summation

τ=tau=torque (N x m)

τ=tau=time constant (s)


φ=phi=angle (rad)

Φ=phi (capital)=


ψ=psi=psychic power (W)

ψ=psi=wave function (dimensionless)

Ψ=psi (capital)=wave function (dimensionless)

ω=omega=angular velocity (rad/s)

Ω=omega (capital)=ohms (S.I. unit of resistance = V/A)

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