# Do all mathematical symbols in LaTeX have a meaning?

I debated whether I should post this on the TeX forum or here. Mathematics seemed more appropriate.

LaTeX has a ridiculous amount of symbols, including countless variations of the integral sign and variations of the logical symbols. So while looking through the compendium of symbols I began to wonder, "I've never seen half (probably more than half) these symbols ever used, what do they even mean?" So I began to wonder if they (the symbols that I have never seen) even had a formal or informal meaning.

So, in summary, do all of the symbols in LaTeX have a meaning, or are their meanings to be defined by the user, who is in need of new notation?

Just going to upload screen cap of symbols,

• It would help if you post an example.
Jun 5, 2014 at 22:47
• Most of them have meanings, but not necessarily universal meanings. Some are variations on a theme, such as $\phi$ and $\varphi$ both representing lowercase $\Phi$, and which is user preference most of the time. Other times, there are simply needs to communicate ideas using a variation on a common symbol. The great number of "equals"-style symbols is indicative of the wide range of equivalence relations in various branches of mathematics, for instance. Sometimes, symbols are available but have no commonly-understood use; in that case, it is up to the author to define them ad hoc. Jun 5, 2014 at 22:49
• $\doublecap, \ltimes$, etc. I don't know what they mean either. Jun 5, 2014 at 22:50
• There are examples for both - commonly used symbols, using which in a different context will cause confusion, and not so common which may be used in a Humpty-Dumpty style ("When I use a word ... it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.") Jun 5, 2014 at 22:52
• I'd say - they wouldn't be added if they had no meanings. Jun 5, 2014 at 22:52

$\LaTeX$ is not only for mathematics. For symbols you have: zodiac signs, cards suits, emoticons, etc... To see the capabilities of $\TeX$ and $\LaTeX$ check this awesome answers: https://tex.stackexchange.com/questions/1319/showcase-of-beautiful-typography-done-in-tex-friends

• Oh my god, the bible... Jun 5, 2014 at 23:35
• I'm well aware, I'm talking about variations of mathematical symbols that I know and brand new symbols included in symbol packages earmarked for mathematics Jun 6, 2014 at 1:03

I guess you can make all the symbols have mathematical meanings, you can just take a symbol you like and assign to it a special meaning. For example let $\daleth_k(n)$ be the number of bijections from a set of size $n$ to the same set of size $n$ which contains no cycles of length less than $k$.

• I just feel like the symbols should be used in an "official" context. Rather than just being used ad hoc Jun 6, 2014 at 20:07

No. Counterexample:

$\aleph$ has a meaning (initial ordinals), $\beth$ has a meaning (power set cardinals), even $\gimel$ has a meaning (a cardinal function $\gimel(\kappa)=\kappa^{\operatorname{cf}(\kappa)}$).

But $\daleth$ doesn't have a meaning.

(The first four letters of the Hebrew alphabet are $\aleph,\beth,\gimel,\daleth$.)

• I consulted on Latex in the early days. I'm responsible for $\bigcirc$ Jun 5, 2014 at 23:06
• Interesting... Who's responsible for $\daleth$? Jun 5, 2014 at 23:07
• Jun 5, 2014 at 23:15
• My dad always wanted me to read Bashevis Singer when I was a child, but somehow I never did. Jun 5, 2014 at 23:17