Meta key

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Sun keyboard with meta key (between space bar and Compose key)

The meta key is a modifier key on certain keyboards, specifically MIT and LISP machine keyboards and successors, such as the Knight keyboard, space-cadet keyboard (where it is labeled “META”), Symbolics keyboards (where it is labeled “META” or “Meta”), and on Sun Microsystems keyboards (where it is marked as a solid diamond “◆”).

The key is similar in function to the Macintosh's command key, which has the same location. On keyboards that lack it, the functionality of the meta key, if available at all, may be invoked by other keys such as the Alt key, the Windows key or the Esc key (as, for example, in Emacs). One notable difference from the other keys, dating to the Knight keyboard, is that the meta key was outside the control key, instead of inside the control key (as the Alt key is usually placed). This results in modifier keys for Emacs keybindings that were designed for Lisp machine keyboards being swapped on standard keyboards.


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