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How to Insert a Degree Symbol in macOS (OS X)

Posted by Jim Tanous on August 23, 2019

After seeing our tip on how to show the degree symbol on the iPhone, a reader recently asked about how to use the degree symbol in macOS (OS X). Thankfully, typing a degree symbol on your Mac in macOS is just as easy as on your phone using iOS, letting you appropriately express both mathematics and the increasingly erratic weather.

There are two ways to type a degree symbol in macOS, and they’re both system-level functions, meaning that they’ll work in any application on your Mac at virtually any time (with some exceptions for secure text entry fields).

But don’t worry, all of the most common applications in which you’d want to type a degree symbol are supported, including Web browsers, macOS Messages, Skype, Mail clients, and even journaling apps like the popular Day One.

Degree Symbol from the Special Characters Menu

You can insert a degree symbol (among many other symbols) by using the Special Characters menu, which is now called the Emoji & Symbols menu in more recent versions of macOS, including macOS Mojave.

To access it, position your cursor where you’d like to insert the degree symbol and then go to Edit > Special Characters (or Edit > Emoji & Symbols) in the Menu Bar. Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut Control-Command-Space on your Mac’s keyboard.
degree symbol mac os x special characters
A new window will appear displaying a range of special characters, symbols, and, for Yosemite, Emoji. Instead of manually browsing the hundreds of available symbols, just type “degree” into the search box to display the available degree symbols.

As seen in the screenshot above (based on OS X Yosemite 10.10.2), you have a choice of three degree symbol options: one each for degrees Fahrenheit and Celsius, and a plain degree symbol. Just double-click your desired symbol to insert it at the current location of your mouse or trackpad cursor. Frequently-used symbols and characters will appear beneath the search box, saving you a bit of time in the future.

Degree Symbol Keyboard Shortcut

The Special Characters menu described above gives you hundreds of useful symbols, characters, and emoji from which to choose, but if you just need a plain degree symbol, it’s not your fastest option. Instead, let’s use a keyboard shortcut.

While typing, move your cursor to the location at which you want to insert a degree symbol. Then, use one of the following keyboard shortcuts:

Shift-Option-8: This key combo inserts the correct degree symbol (i.e., 72°)
Option-K: This key combo inserts a small degree symbol looks very similar to the actual degree symbol but is smaller (i.e., 72˚)

We’re not sure if there’s any meaningful difference between the large and small degree symbols when used in meteorological or mathematical contexts, but using either will likely get your point across (see note below). Of note, when using the Special Characters menu approach described in the section above, the larger degree symbol is inserted.

Update: Reader Kristof emailed to let us know that the smaller symbol (Option-K) is a diacritical mark, while the larger symbol (Shift-Option-8) is the actual degree symbol. Thanks, Kristof!

If you found this article useful, you might also find these TechJunkie articles beneficial as well:

If you have any tips or tricks with regard to how to use and not use symbols and special characters on your Mac, please tell us about it in the comments below!

5 thoughts on “How to Insert a Degree Symbol in macOS (OS X)”

Linda Medina says:
Thank you!
Reply
Jen says:
thank you!!
Reply
senhorsilva71 says:
Option+k is not a degree symbol. Is a kroužek or ring, a diacritic Czech symbol.
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Aasim Soomro says:
Thanks!
Reply
Chad von Nau says:
Shift-Option-8 is the correct degree sign. Option-K is the “ring above” character (matches å). There’s also another similar character, Option-0, the “masculine ordinal indicator”.
You can verify this by opening up the expanded character palette (clicking the button to the right of the search field in the Special Characters palette) and pasting characters into the search field there.
I only learned this today, after this article made me curious. Previously I had been using Option-0.
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Aasim Soomro says:
If I ‘d like the “ring above” option, how do I add it to a character? Option-K, simply adds it after the letter like any other degree symbol, for example: a˚.
Reply
Chad von Nau says:
Activate the US Extended keyboard layout, then Shift-Option-K will do it. See http://sites.psu.edu/symbolcodes/mac/codemacext/ for more.

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