Mac Keyboard Symbols Explained

Nov 7, 2010 - 11 Comments

mac menu symbols

If you’re new to the Mac, learning the keyboard symbols that appear in the menus and what keys they stand for is essential for accessing various shortcuts. Not only do the Mac menus use the symbol short form as seen in the screenshot above, but many websites will refer to the symbol rather than the text printed on the keys (⌥ instead of Option, for instance).

With this in mind, here’s the Mac keyboard symbol translated to the keys they represent:

mac keyboard symbols

This is the full list in text form, note these symbols only display properly on a Mac:

• ⌘ = Command (sometimes displayed as  an Apple logo)
• ⇧ = Shift
• ⌫ = Backspace/Delete
• ⇪ = Caps lock
• ⌥ = Option/Alt
• ⌃ = Control
• ⎋ = Escape
• ←↑→↓ = Arrow Keys
• ↩ = Return

(Refer to the graphic at the top if you’re currently on a Windows machine)

Thanks to Pat for suggesting this tip and sending in the list!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X


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  1. samson says:

    Option/ALt makes no sense to me at all, and why Apple doesn’t put these on the keyboards is also strange… talk about confusing for newbies

    • gray says:

      I stared at it for a long time before I got what the symbol was. It is like a train track that breaks off to the right. It would be a straight line (a non-alternative click) but instead, by pressing the Alternat (ALT) you are changing lanes, so to speak. That may not be it at all but it makes sense to me. And yes, the symbols should also be on the keys.

  2. Leandro says:

    Another one you may see on sites is the Enter key, displayed as this symbol: ⊼

  3. Alberto says:

    There is the “tab” too ⇥

  4. Alberto says:

    And the key “fn”. On the it laptops it activates the “F1-12” keys.

  5. […] or if the beeping is “normal.”  Ah but wonder no more! Thanks to the awesome folks at OS X Daily we now have a nice quick reference […]

  6. Bronzit says:

    All of these symbols are listed with their explanations in System Preferences/Keyboard/Keyboard/Modifier Keys, & always have been, BTW… You can also change them their if you want to.

  7. Olga says:

    Clarification of Backspace/Delete icons: “Backspace” removes the letter before the cursor, and that icon there is correct. But “Delete” (also called “Forward Delete”) removes the letter AFTER the cursor, and looks like the mirror image of the “Backspace” icon: ⌦. On the laptop, you can accomplish this by pressing Ctrl-Delete which will do forward-delete.

  8. Lobko says:

    where can I find following symobol on the ipad:

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