Wednesday, 17 May 2017

θ | theta

The Greek letter θ (theta) was derived from the ancient Phoenician letter 𐤈 (ṭēt) which meant “wheel”. The Cyrillic letter Ѳ (fita), derived from θ, was a part of the Russian alphabet until 1918. Gogol wrote in a footnote to Dead Souls:

«Ѳетюкъ — слово обидное для мужчины, происходитъ отъ Ѳ, буквы, почитаемой нѣкоторыми неприличною буквою.»
(“Thetuk” is an offensive word to a man, it comes from Ѳ, a letter thought by some indecent.)
Speaking of decency: according to Real Academia Española, this letter should be called zeta, perhaps to avoid using the word teta, while the letter ζ is supposed to be called dseta.

The lower-case letter θ has quite a few uses in maths and sciences, for instance:

More photos of letters, numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

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