While writing a paper, I find myself exhausted with superscript symbols to denote similar types of variables. I have used x, x^\ast (i.e. x*), x^\star and x'. I can't use symbols which sit right on top of 'x' such as \hat or \tilde or \bar etc. Neither can I use a new variable (like y or z) for a new quantity related to x. I must also not use a number or an alphabet for the superscript.

I saw some people using alternatives such as big asterisk/star, a club or diamond in the superscript. But these symbols stand out in the text to the extent that they give the text a garish look.

Although I did notice a number of other star/asterisk-related symbols in the comprehensive latex symbol guide, I was not sure which of them is a conventional math superscript.

Any suggestions about using a few more (= 2 or 3) decent superscript symbols? Are there any other commonly used math symbols to solve this problem? Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Correction: I am using matrix pseudoinverse in the paper. So, \dagger symbol has also been used.

4 Answers 4


These symbols remind of footnote symbols, which following this sequence: (1) *, (2), \dagger, (3) \ddagger, (4), \mathsection, (5) \mathparagraph, (6) \|, (7) **, (8) \dagger\dagger and (9) \ddagger\ddagger. You'll notice this sequence when viewing the definition of \@fnsymbol (from latex.ltx):

\def\@fnsymbol#1{\ensuremath{\ifcase#1\or *\or \dagger\or \ddagger\or
   \mathsection\or \mathparagraph\or \|\or **\or \dagger\dagger
   \or \ddagger\ddagger \else\@ctrerr\fi}}

It only carries symbols up to 9, after which an error is thrown. If needed, you can define your own symbol-extraction macro (or use the above) and pick symbols from it in a very generic way:

enter image description here

$x\ x\ssymbol{1}\ x\ssymbol{2}\ x\ssymbol{3}\ x\ssymbol{4}\ x\ssymbol{5}      x\ssymbol{6}\ x\ssymbol{7}\ x\ssymbol{8}\ x\ssymbol{9}$

Perhaps, define your own \@ssymbol macro in a similar way to \@fnsymbol that adds to your symbol selection from those included in the Comprehensive LaTeX symbol list. This is preferred since it also promotes consistency and allows you to easily change your mind later. For example, if you don't want \ddagger\ddagger for \ssymbol{9}, just update the definition and everything else will fall in place; no need to manually replace all \ddagger\ddagger with <new preferres symbol>.

As a showcase, \ssymbol{<num>} provides some letters from the Greek alphabet as "symbols":

enter image description here

\usepackage{multido}% http://ctan.org/pkg/multido
$x \multido{\i=1+1}{15}{\ x\ssymbol{\i}}$ \par
$x \multido{\i=16+1}{14}{\ x\ssymbol{\i}}$

If there is no prevailing convention, just go ahead and use whatever you want. After all, you only need to introduce it stringently so it's clear from your notation what you want to show. From a readability point of view, it's best to use symbols not easily confused with others. Have a look at the list of LaTeX symbols. Me personally, I'd have a look in Tab. 52. Something like


Tab. 55 sports some even better symbols, possibly:


Go crazy!

  • Thank you, Maferdati. I see your point but I want to use a symbol with a precedence of usage as superscript. I have already tried Table 49 and found the symbols very garish. The choices you mentioned in Table 46 look less flamboyant and I might use them. But I am not sure if there is a precedence in math literature of using those symbols. I know, it's crazy! - kvm
    – kvm
    Commented Nov 25, 2013 at 21:44
  • Some in common use: \circ, +, -, \times, \sharp, \flat, \natural. Also, I've seen common accents used as superscripts, but folks disagree on how to enter them: x\hat{\,} or x^{\wedge}. Others are x\v{\,} (or x^{\vee}) and x\tilde{\,} (or x^{\sim}). Packages amssymb, latexsym and mnsymbol provide some simple small geometric shapes (triangles, diamond, squares and such) that might be useful.
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 26, 2013 at 5:53

There are others available in the same family.

  • Hi user2987828, Thank you. I should have mentioned that I am using Moore-Penrose pseudoinverse in my paper (it uses the dagger superscript). - kvm
    – kvm
    Commented Nov 25, 2013 at 21:23

I have found that Latex has a symbol for a star which is the command \bigstar. http://latex.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_LaTeX_symbols

So using the following:


enter image description here


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