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Sigma (upper case Σ, lower case σ, lower case in word-final position ς; Greek σίγμα) is the eighteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, and carries the 'S' sound. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 200. When used at the end of a word, and the word is not all upper case, the final form (ς) is used, e.g. Ὀδυσσεύς (Odysseus) - note the two sigmas in the center of the name, and the word-final sigma at the end. It is not to be confused with the cedilla ç.



The Madaba Map, a sixth-century mosaic map of Jerusalem ("Η ΑΓΙΑ ПОΛΙΣ") uses the lunate sigma.
The Madaba Map, a sixth-century mosaic map of Jerusalem ("Η ΑΓΙΑ ПОΛΙΣ") uses the lunate sigma.

The shape and alphabetic position of Sigma is derived from Phoenician shin 𐤔.


The name of sigma, according to one theory,[1] may continue that of Phoenician Samekh. According to a different theory,[2] its original name may have been "San" (the name today associated with another, obsolete letter), while "Sigma" was a Greek innovation that simply meant "hissing", based on a nominalization of a verb σίζω (sízō, from earlier *sig-jō, meaning 'I hiss').

Uppercase of esh

The uppercase form of sigma was re-borrowed into the Latin alphabet to serve as the uppercase of modern esh (lowercase: ʃ).

Lunate sigma

In handwritten Greek during the Hellenistic period (4th and 3rd centuries BC), the epigraphic form of Σ was simplified into a C-like shape.[3] It is also found on coins from the fourth century BC onwards.[4] This became the universal standard form of Sigma during late antiquity and the Middle Ages. It is today known as lunate sigma (upper case Ϲ, lower case ϲ), because of its crescent-like shape.

It is still widely used in decorative typefaces in Greece, especially in religious and church contexts, as well as in some modern print editions of classical Greek texts. The forms of the Cyrillic letter С (representing /s/) and Coptic lettersima are derived from lunate sigma.

A dotted lunate sigma (sigma periestigmenon, encoded at U+03FE Ͼ) was used by Aristarchus of Samothrace as an editorial sign indicating that the line so marked is at an incorrect position. Similarly, an antisigma or reversed sigma (Ͻ) may mark a line that is out of place. A dotted antisigma or dotted reversed sigma (antisigma periestigmenon: Ͽ) may indicate a line after which rearrangements should be made, or to variant readings of uncertain priority.



In both Ancient and Modern Greek, the sigma represents the voiceless alveolar fricative /s/. In Ancient Greek, this sound was voiced to /z/ before /m/ or /n/.


Upper case Σ may be used in the Berber Latin alphabet for [ʕ], though the INALCO standard uses Ɛ instead.

Science and mathematics

Upper case

Upper case Σ is used as a symbol for:

Lower case

Lower case σ is used for:


During the 1930s, an upper case Σ was in use as the symbol of the Ação Integralista Brasileira, a radical right-wing party in Brazil.


  • Mercury-Atlas 8 was called Sigma 7.
  • Upper-case Σ is sometimes substituted jocularly for upper-case E to impart a "Greek" air; posters for the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding and promotional materials for the television series Greek, for instance, have "GRΣΣK" instead.
  • Sigma 2,3,5,6,7,8,9 computers produced by Xerox Data Systems in the 1970s following purchase of SDS, Scientific Data Systems, by it. Successful range of scientific computers similar to IBM 370s.
  • Sigma is the name of a system for ontology development and reasoning
  • Project Sigma was the name of a proposal for a "spontaneous university" by the Scottish writer Alexander Trocchi.
  • The French mathematician and poet Jacques Roubaud used the symbol as a title for his first book of poems, Σ, published in 1967.[5]
  • The main antagonist in the Mega Man X series is named Sigma.
  • In the video game Lux-Pain, Sigma is often mentioned as a power used to destroy "Silent".
  • Doctor Who's Ood Sigma was a primary character in Planet of the Ood he also played a minor role in The Waters of Mars and The End of Time. He has the letter Σ on his tunic. Sigma was also part of the name which the Doctor used whilst living on Gallifrey, the name being Theta Sigma.
  • The last part of the colon in the human body is called " sigmoid" as it is "S" shaped, as it descends down into the pelvis.
  • Six Sigma is a popular business management strategy.

See also


  • 1. Jeffery, Lilian H. (1961). The local scripts of archaic Greece. Oxford: Clarendon. pp. 25–27.
  • 2. Woodard, Roger D. (2006). "Alphabet". In Wilson, Nigel Guy. Encyclopedia of ancient Greece. London: Routldedge. p. 38.
  • 3. Edward M. Thompson (1912), Introduction to Greek and Latin paleography, Oxford: Clarendon. p.108, 144
  • 4. Numismatica Font Projects.
  • 5. Auster, Paul, editor, The Random House Book of Twentieth-Century French Poetry: with Translations by American and British Poets, New York: Random House, 1982 ISBN 0-394-52197-8

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