"R" is resistor/resistance, and "C" is capacitor/capacitance, that makes sense. But where comes the "L" for inductor/inductance come from?

edit: Wikipedia says it's possibly in honor of Heinrich Lenz, but I'd like to hear something more affirmative.

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    \$\begingroup\$ My guess is that I was taken (current), so that's what happened. There are more quantities than English letters, which causes these problems - some of them don't make sense. (Conductance - G, Reactance - X, Admittance - Y, Impedance - Z, Susceptance - B, etc.) Edit: Actually, impedance perhaps does make sense, as Z is often used for complex numbers. \$\endgroup\$
    – exscape
    Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 10:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not an answer... but somewhere i heard that, L is used for coil because Coil and Capacitor both start with C, so to abbreviate Coil-Capacitor circuit, use of of same letter would be confusing. so it is written LC , where L is the last letter of coiL. \$\endgroup\$
    – user107801
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 11:26

1 Answer 1


As exscape already mentioned, the symbol I was already taken for current (Ampère referred to electric current as "l'intensité du courant électrique", and used the symbol I in his equations).

According to a bio for Heinrich Lenz on the website of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (which is affiliated with the Los Alamos National Laboratory),

Lenz’s name, or at least his first initial, is attached to still one more area of physics nomenclature. The symbol “L” was chosen to represent “inductance” in honor of his pioneering work in electromagnetism.


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