Is this key the same as shift?

If so, why don't people just call it shift? I spent a long time looking around for what this key means. Google returned no results. My MacBook Air keyboard does not have this symbol either.


2 Answers 2


That is the Option key ( Alt on Windows).

It's not the same as Shift - it's generally used as a secondary modifier for keyboard shortcuts (Command being the primary modifier) and for shortcuts that don't perform an action (e.g. Option-8 is a bullet point and Option-Shift-8 is a degree symbol °).

From the official "macOS User Guide":

  • 1
    It is indeed interesting to note that that symbol isn't used on some keyboard layouts, like those of a MBA. Instead it has option written out in full.
    – Gerry
    Mar 18, 2012 at 11:01
  • 2
    @Gerry (New) US keyboards don't use the symbols as much as new European ones or older keyboards.
    – Lri
    Mar 18, 2012 at 12:29
  • But even if you have a US keyboard, with "option" written out, you will see menu shortcuts with that funny symbol in them... Same for "shift" and "control".
    – GEdgar
    Mar 30, 2012 at 20:08

The first symbol is the option key, located between the command and control keys on a typical Mac keyboard.

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