AskDefine | Define tau

Dictionary Definition

tau n : the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet

Extensive Definition

This article is about the letter of the Greek alphabet. For other uses, see Tau (disambiguation).
Tau (uppercase Τ, lowercase τ; []) 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 [taʊ], but in Modern Greek, this letter's name is pronounced [tuf]. 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 language#Orthography).
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.
  • Surname for Chinese family
  • Hyundai Motors uses "Tau" to identify their recently introduced V8 engine.


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.''
tau in Tosk Albanian: Τ
tau in Arabic: تاو (حرف إغريقي)
tau in Official Aramaic (700-300 BCE): Τ
tau in Bosnian: Tau
tau in Breton: Tau (lizherenn)
tau in Catalan: Tau (lletra grega)
tau in Welsh: Tau
tau in Danish: Tau
tau in German: Tau (Buchstabe)
tau in Modern Greek (1453-): Ταυ
tau in Spanish: Τ
tau in Esperanto: Taŭo (litero)
tau in Basque: Τ
tau in French: Tau
tau in Irish: Tó
tau in Scottish Gaelic: Tau
tau in Galician: Tau
tau in Korean: Τ
tau in Croatian: Tau
tau in Indonesian: Tau
tau in Icelandic: Tá (bókstafur)
tau in Italian: Tau (lettera)
tau in Hebrew: טאו (אות)
tau in Georgian: ტაუ (ასო)
tau in Haitian: Τ
tau in Kurdish: Tau
tau in Hungarian: Tau
tau in Malay (macrolanguage): Tau
tau in Dutch: Tau (letter)
tau in Japanese: Τ
tau in Norwegian: Tau (bokstav)
tau in Norwegian Nynorsk: Bokstaven Tau
tau in Low German: Tau
tau in Polish: Tau
tau in Portuguese: Τ
tau in Russian: Тау (буква)
tau in Simple English: Tau (letter)
tau in Slovak: Tau
tau in Slovenian: Tau
tau in Serbo-Croatian: Tau
tau in Finnish: Tau
tau in Swedish: Tau
tau in Thai: เทา (อักษรกรีก)
tau in Turkish: Τ
tau in Ukrainian: Тау (літера)
tau in Chinese: Τ
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