In the unicode-math package, what is the difference between \mupalpha and \upalpha? What is the purpose of the m prefix?

  • I can't find a reference to either \upalpha or \mupalpha in the user guide of the unicode-math package. In contrast, \mupalpha is mentioned in the user guide of the unimath-symbols package. Is that maybe the package you're thinking of?
    – Mico
    Apr 30, 2016 at 12:03
  • The unicode-math package website provides the document "List of sym­bols de­fined by the pack­age". This document lists \mupalpha, but not \upalpha. Both symbols work in XeTex.
    – kaba
    Apr 30, 2016 at 12:26
  • The "List of sym­bols de­fined by the [unicode-math] pack­age" provided on the package's website is indeed the same document as the user guide of the unimath-symbols package. :-) I'd say that \m is a generic prefix for math-symbols; the following variant glyphs of \alpha are defined: \mupalpha, \mitalpha, \mbfalpha, \mbfitalpha, \mbfsansalpha, and `\mbfitsansalpha. However, not all math fonts provide all of these glyph variants. The various TeX formats (Plain, LaTeX, etc) may provide additional macros that point directly to these glyphs.
    – Mico
    Apr 30, 2016 at 12:49

1 Answer 1


Sorry for the slow reply :)

This might not be documented particularly well. \mupalpha refers to an input character, and \upalpha essentially refers to an output character (which is usually what a user is interested in).

If you take a look in unicode-math-table.tex you see that \mupalpha is listed as the definition for the mathematical upright alpha:

\UnicodeMathSymbol{"003B1}{\mupalpha                 }{\mathalpha}{small alpha, greek}%

If you then write \show\mupalpha in a document you will receive (at time of writing, this might change in the future):

> \mupalpha=the character α.

The upright/italic nature of Greek symbols in the OUTPUT is controlled by unicode-math options like math-style=upright. I.e., writing

$\mupalpha$ or $α$

will result in two upright alphas — the two input forms (command or char) are equivalent.

In contrast, \upalpha is a long-standing LaTeX command to produce, you guessed it, an upright alpha. In fact, it is defined internally as \symup{\alpha}. So regardless of math-style and so on, writing \upalpha will ALWAYS give you an upright alpha.


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