Often, certain symbols in mathematics denote different things in different fields. Is there any sort of ordered list that will tell you what a certain symbol means in alphabetical order by the symbol's alias in LaTeX, perhaps with the way to pronounce it out loud?

I'm thinking of something like this Wikipedia page but more comprehensive and usefully ordered by LaTeX alias (The one on wikipedia has very few symbols, and I am familiar with all of them already). The problem is that when you want to find the meaning of a symbol, there is no way to search on google (because google has no support at all for searching for symbols). Oftentimes, I'm forced to ask someone around the department what it means or how to say it out loud.

For example, I'm trying to find the meaning of the symbol $\uplus$, but I have no way of finding out what it means. Also, for the longest time, I couldn't figure out what to call $f_!$ or $f^!$. How should I know that they're called "f lower shriek" or "f upper shriek".

So for the question: Does any such list exist for either pronunciation, meaning, or both (aside from the one on Wikipedia that I just noted)?

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    $\begingroup$ Multiset union? fileformat.info/info/unicode/char/228e/index.htm. fileformat.info/info/unicode/block/mathematical_operators/… $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 10:43
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    $\begingroup$ On a closely related note, I have often found myself wanting to use some symbol for my own purposes, but I am often held back by a worry that in so doing, I am trampling all over some established use for that symbol, thus confusing the heck out of my readers. (For example, I have no idea what symbols like $\sqcap$, $\sqcup$, $\sqsubset$, $\sqsupset$ are typically used for.) Apart from the usefulness of a comprehensive list, what do people think about co-opting symbols whose normal use is unknown to the author? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 12:06
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    $\begingroup$ Of course there is no such list. Mathematics is far too diverse. In fact, we are lucky if a book contains a list of symbols showing how they are used in just that book. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ If you're so confused you don't even know how to TeX the symbol in question: detexify.kirelabs.org/classify.html $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 13:44
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    $\begingroup$ Completely irrelevant, but I like Ralph Cohen's explanation of the shriek notation: it's such a surprise to find a map in that direction that it makes you shriek. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 21:50

3 Answers 3


Comments suggest this ...
However, a designation like "rightwards arrow above reverse tilde operator" doesn't really answer the question here, does it?

  • $\begingroup$ It gives the name of the symbol, which is a partial answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ This is actually a really good answer now that I look, and it's very likely to be accepted, since you can infer a lot of the information just from the name. For example, this answers both my and Harald's questions. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ It doesn't look like any other answers are going to be given, so I'm accepting this one. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 19:05

Relatedly, the Detexify utility can help you find the LaTeX name for a symbol you can draw.


Not a complete answer to your question, but as far as your problem is drawing symbols in LaTeX, you'll hardly find anything more complete than the Comprehensive LaTeX symbols list

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I know about this. I'm looking for something like that that also names the symbol. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2010 at 13:43

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