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Tau uc lc.svg
Greek alphabet
Αα Alpha Νν Nu
Ββ Beta Ξξ Xi
Γγ Gamma Οο Omicron
Δδ Delta Ππ Pi
Εε Epsilon Ρρ Rho
Ζζ Zeta Σσς Sigma
Ηη Eta Ττ Tau
Θθ Theta Υυ Upsilon
Ιι Iota Φφ Phi
Κκ Kappa Χχ Chi
Λλ Lambda Ψψ Psi
Μμ Mu Ωω Omega
Obsolete letters
Digamma uc lc.svg Digamma Qoppa uc lc.svg Qoppa
San uc lc.svg San Sampi uc lc.svg Sampi
Other characters
Stigma uc lc.svg Stigma Sho uc lc.svg Sho
Heta uc lc.svg Heta

Greek diacritics

Tau (uppercase Τ, lowercase τ; Greek: Ταυ [taf]) is the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 300. This letter in English is pronounced /ˈtaʊ/, but in Modern Greek, this letter's name is pronounced [taf]. This is because the pronunciation of the combination of Greek letters αυ has changed from ancient to modern times from one of /aʊ/ to either /av/ or /af/ (see Greek orthography).

Letters that arose from tau include Roman T and Cyrillic Te (Т, τ).

The symbolism of the cross was connected not only to the letter chi, but also to tau, the equivalent of the last letter in the Phoenician and Old Hebrew alphabets, and which was originally cruciform in shape.

Scientific uses

The lower-case letter τ is used as a symbol for:

Other uses

  • In ancient times, a symbol for life and/or resurrection, whereas the 8th letter of the Greek alphabet, theta, was considered the symbol of death.
  • In Biblical times, the Taw was put on men to distinguish those who lamented sin, although newer versions of the Bible have replaced the ancient term “Taw” with "mark" (Ezekiel 9:4) or "signature" (Job 31:35). Its original sound value is a voiceless alveolar plosive, IPA /t/,
  • Tau is usually considered as the symbol of Franciscan orders due to St. Francis' love for it, symbol of the redemption and of the Cross. Almost all Franciscan churches have painted a tau with two crossing arms, both with stigmata, the one of Jesus and the other of Francis; usually members of the Secular Franciscan Order wear a wooden τ in a string with three knots around the neck.
  • Tau mission, a proposal to send a space probe to a thousand astronomical units from the Earth and Sun.
  • The Tau Empire, one of the playable races in Warhammer 40K universe.
  • In Freelancer, the Tau systems make up much of the Border Worlds.
  • Hyundai Motors uses "Tau" to identify their recently introduced V8 engine.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, imitation-solar furnaces used to power the three Throne Gundams and later the United Nations' GN-X and Alvatore are referred to as GN Drives Tau, as opposed to the original drives used by Celestial Being.
  • In the game Half Life 2, the buggy uses a mounted Tau Cannon which fires bolts of electricity in rapid succession. It can also charge up a powered current.


An essay written around 160 AD, attributed to Lucian, a mock legal prosecution called The Consonants at Law — Sigma v. Tau in the Court of Seven Vowels contains a reference to the attribution. Sigma petitions the court to sentence Tau to death by crucifixion, saying:

Men weep, and bewail their lot, and curse Cadmus with many curses for introducing Tau into the family of letters; they say it was his body that tyrants took for a model, his shape that they imitated, when they set up structures on which men are crucified. Stauros (cross) the vile engine is called, and it derives its vile name from him. Now, with all these crimes upon him, does he not deserve death, nay, many deaths? For my part I know none bad enough but that supplied by his own shape — that shape which he gave to the gibbet named stauros after him by men.


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

The Universal Character Set
Greek uc tau.svg
Codepoint U+03A4
Σ ← Greek and Coptic → Υ




Τ (uppercase, lowercase τ)

  1. The lower case letter tau (ταυ), the 19th letter of the modern Greek alphabet.



  1. The number 300 in Greek numerals.

  1. The number 300,000 in Greek numerals.


See also

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