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Alpha (Α, α) Definition

Alpha (Α, α) is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek Numerals, it has a value of 1. It was derived from the Phoenician and Hebrew letter aleph which is an ox or leader. Letters that arose from alpha include the Latin A and the Cyrillic letter А. In English, the noun alpha is used as a synonym for beginning, or first (in a series), reflecting its Greek roots.

Usage in Mathematics & Science

The letter alpha has several different uses such as for the following:

  • Alpha radiation, angular acceleration, alpha particles, alpha carbon and strength of electromagnetic interaction (as Fine-structure constant).

  • Alpha also stands for thermal expansion coefficient of a compound in physical chemistry. It is also commonly used in mathematics in algebraic solutions representing quantities such as angles.

  • In mathematics, the letter alpha is used to denote the area underneath a normal curve in statistics to denote significance level when proving null and alternative hypotheses.

  • In zoology, it is used to name the dominant individual in a wolf or dog pack.

  • In aerodynamics, the letter is used as a symbol for the angle of attack of an aircraft and the word alpha is used as a synonym for this property.

  • The uppercase letter alpha is not generally used as a symbol because it tends to be rendered identically to the uppercase Latin A.

  • In finance, it is a financial measure denoting the difference between a fund's actual return and its expected return, given its risk level (as measured by beta). In this case a positive alpha indicates that a fund has performed better than expected based on its risk (beta), whereas a negative alpha indicates poorer performance versus what was expected.

Greek Alphabet

The letters of the Ancient Greek Alphabet, which are frequently utilized in math and science:

Greek Alphabet

Symbol

Letter

Symbol

Letter

Uppercase

Lowercase

Uppercase

Lowercase

Α

α

Alpha

Ν

ν

Nu

Β

β

Beta

Ξ

ξ

Xi

Γ

γ

Gamma

Ο

ο

Omicron

Δ

δ

Delta

Π

π

Pi

Ε

ε

Epsilon

Ρ

ρ

Rho

Ζ

ζ

Zeta

Σ

σ

Sigma

Η

η

Eta

Τ

τ

Tau

Θ

θ

Theta

Υ

υ

Upsilon

Ι

ι

Iota

Φ

φ

Phi

Κ

κ

Kappa

Χ

χ

Chi

Λ

λ

Lambda

Ψ

ψ

Psi

Μ

μ

Mu

Ω

ω

Omega

Sources

“Alpha.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Apr. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha.

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