I want to draw gamma distribution with different shape and scale parameters. The following MWE displayed error. The error information is : enter image description here

Here is MWE:



axis x line=bottom,
axis y line=left
smooth] {\gammaPDF(9,0.5)};
  • 5
    remove the backslash from gammaPDF and define gamma
    – percusse
    Jun 21, 2013 at 19:38
  • @percusse: From the link:tex.stackexchange.com/questions/80345/…, where the gamma function is used but no predefined. So why I can't use it directly here.
    – user22986
    Jun 21, 2013 at 20:07
  • 1
    @user22986: In the answer you linked to, the function is evaluated using the gnuplot backend. The gamma function isn't defined in the PGF math parser.
    – Jake
    Jun 21, 2013 at 20:21

1 Answer 1


Here's the gamma PDF using the gamma function approximation that Wolfram Alpha spits out:


    declare function={gamma(\z)=
    (2.506628274631*sqrt(1/\z) + 0.20888568*(1/\z)^(1.5) + 0.00870357*(1/\z)^(2.5) - (174.2106599*(1/\z)^(3.5))/25920 - (715.6423511*(1/\z)^(4.5))/1244160)*exp((-ln(1/\z)-1)*\z);},
    declare function={gammapdf(\x,\k,\theta) = \x^(\k-1)*exp(-\x/\theta) / (\theta^\k*gamma(\k));}

    axis lines=left,
    legend entries={$k=1\quad \theta=2$,$k=2\quad \theta=2$, $k=9\quad \theta=0.5$}
\addplot [smooth, domain=0:20] {gammapdf(x,1,2)};
\addplot [smooth, domain=0:20, red] {gammapdf(x,2,2)};
\addplot [smooth, domain=0:20, blue] {gammapdf(x,9,0.5)};
  • 3
    I came here looking for a way to draw the Gamma function itself. It turns out that the approximation is good only for "large z", where large means z > 0.4 or so. For very small z, the approximation even becomes negative. So if you need parameters z < 0.4 for the gamma pdf, another approximation is needed. One way to go is to use the functional equation of the gamma function as follows: Denote the Wolfram alpha approximation of gamma by gammas. Then, instead of working with gammas(z), one can approximate gamma(z) by 1/z * gammas(z+1).
    – jarauh
    Oct 15, 2015 at 17:26

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