One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Logic a symbol in a given formal language, especially one representing a definite object or property in the domain of discourse.
2Physics (in early use) any of a series of letters used to signify the orbital quantum number of an atom; (in later use) an expression used to describe the atomic state of an atom, consisting of a letter signifying its orbital quantum number, preceded by its spin multiplicity written in superscript, and (sometimes) followed by the quantum number, written in subscript, representing its total angular momentum.
Mid 19th century.
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