# Talk:Nabla symbol

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For more on the name nable see Maxwell's letter to Peter Tait 7 November 1870.

```--Equanimous2 22:39, 20 September 2006 (UTC)
```

## Nabla picture looks like box

I think we need another way to display the nabla in the image to the right of the introduction. On some computers (my own included) it looks like a rectangle, even when enlarged. (ie: on my computer, "∇" looks more like "${\displaystyle \Box }$" than like "${\displaystyle \nabla }$") Riick (talk) 01:39, 31 August 2010 (UTC) edited to replace "del" with "nabla" by Riick (talk) 14:21, 31 August 2010 (UTC)

Yeah, that's not good. —Kri (talk) 04:25, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

## Source of the name

Nabla is the symbol \nabla (∇). The name comes from the Greek word for a Hebrew harp, which had a similar shape. Related words also exist in Aramaic and Hebrew. The symbol was first used by William Rowan Hamilton in the form of a sideways wedge: ⊲. Another, less-common name for the symbol is atled (delta spelled backwards), because the nabla is an inverted Greek letter delta. In actual Greek usage, the symbol is called ανάδελτα, anádelta, which means "upside-down delta". The source of the name may come from Farsi دل (pronounced del and meaning 'heart') as the nabla shape is similar to the heart's shape in profile.

Wait, what? How can the Farsi character called "del" be the source of the name "nabla"? Perhaps the writer meant something other than what they said.Ordinary Person (talk) 03:18, 14 June 2012 (UTC)

I assume the author of that passage meant to describe the origin of Delta itself. If that is the case, the offending sentence could be clarified like this:
The name Delta may have originated in the Farsi word (pronounced del and meaning 'heart') as the delta shape is similar to the heart's shape in profile.
Monomoit (talk) 18:55, 27 June 2012 (UTC)
I think they are referring to the Del operator, which is usually denoted by a nabla symbol. I agree that the sentence is confusing though, maybe it should be moved to the Del article or just removed altogether if it lacks a source. 138.16.21.199 (talk) 15:37, 30 April 2013 (UTC)

The way the intro reads now, is absolutely confusing. It's stated that "nabla" comes from Hebrew "nevel" without any indication of the process it went through. And then, later in the article it quotes someone directly involved, and he says, "It is the name of an Egyptian harp, which was of that shape." So, where did this word actually come from? A Hebrew "nevel" which was called a "nabla" in Greek (even though the Greek don't call this symbol "nabla")? Or the name of an Egyptian harp? The article appears to contradict itself as regularly as the intro replicated by the first post in this comment thread. --Puellanivis (talk) 16:32, 13 June 2015 (UTC)

Oh goat, I have walked myself into a quagmire, nothing supports anything of this, except that Hamilton and friends all believed it to be a type of harp. One would think that such evidence would exist to support this, but there is nothing about a "nabla" harp anywhere, and the Greek Wikipedia article on harps doesn't mention ANYTHING about harps. Other people say that it's Hebrew, not Greek, that's where I realized that I stepped into a much deeper puddle than I was expecting, and decided to give an update here. Suffice it to say, the only credible information I have is again, Hamilton and friends all believed it to be a type of harp. From where they got this notion is entirely obfuscated at this point... --Puellanivis (talk) 16:50, 13 June 2015 (UTC)
Ok, I have found answers. The Hebrew Torah makes mention of a נבל (nevel) in a list of four instruments (Torah: 1 Samuel 10:5), and modern day uses this word to mean "harp" generally. In the Septuaginta, this instrument's name was translated to ναβλα (nabla). But newer translations use the Greek word ψαλτήρι (psalteri, plural) to translate this particular instrument. In the Vulgata it was translated "psalterium" from the Greek word mentioned before. Now to the fun part, modern Hebrew is a reconstructed language. As such the meaning of "harp" today, means nothing about what it meant at the time, and no one has any clue what actual instrument they were referring to, but everyone's pretty sure it was a harp-like instrument.
So, it's an Ancient Greek transliteration from Ancient Hebrew נבל (nevel) for an known-to-be instrument, that is presumed by everyone to be a harp-like instrument, so much so that Modern Hebrew uses the word to generically mean "harp". (i.e. not a special type of harp.) But which Greeks now call a ψαλτεριον (psalterion) and in English is a psaltery. The name "nabla" most likely comes from Hamilton and friends knowing of the Septuaginta, which calls it a nabla, even though Modern Greek doesn't. So regardless of where the Hebrew nevel came from, the "nabla" character is named after a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew nevel. (I would rather not put a bunch of citations into the Bible, but I don't know any other way to cite this stuff without making it look like original research (which it kind of is)) --Puellanivis (talk) 17:23, 13 June 2015 (UTC)

It should all be clear now. Archelon (talk) 00:57, 16 April 2016 (UTC)

Nabla in Arabic means arrow, singular of Nibal meaning arrows, see [1]. 18.142.13.225 (talk) 21:18, 16 July 2015 (UTC)

Interesting, but not relevant to the etymology of the name of the symbol in question. Archelon (talk) 00:57, 16 April 2016 (UTC)