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Greater-than sign

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Title: Greater-than sign  
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Greater-than sign

The greater-than symbol is used in various operations that usually pertain to work being done mathematically or with a programming language. The symbol looks similar to a sideways V and has been used in recorded literature as old as the 1560s. Generally, the symbol is used to show inequality between two numbers or expressions. In mathematics, if there are two numbers being looked at as an inequality, the greater-than symbol usually goes in between the two and symbolizes that the first number is greater than the second number (For example: 4 > 2 or 102 > 100). There are other combinations of the greater-than symbol and the 'equals' symbol or the greater-than symbol beside another greater-than symbol that are also used mathematically and computationally.

Greater than symbol

Any easy way to think about it is thinking of it as an alligator. The alligator is eating the bigger thing. The larger side of the sign is the mouth of the alligator.


  • History 1
  • Computing 2
    • Angle brackets 2.1
    • Programming language 2.2
    • Double greater-than sign 2.3
    • Greater-than sign plus equals sign 2.4
    • Shell scripts 2.5
    • Spaceship operator 2.6
    • HTML 2.7
    • Electronic mail 2.8
  • See also 3


The symbols < and > first appear in Artis Analyticae Praxis ad Aequationes Algebraicas Resolvendas (The Analytical Arts Applied to Solving Algebraic Equations) by Thomas Harriot (1560-1621), which was published posthumously in 1631: "Signum majoritatis ut a > b significet a majorem quam b" and "Signum minoritatis ut a < b significet a minorem quam b."

According to Johnson (page 144), while Harriot was surveying North America, he saw a native American with a symbol that resembled the greater than symbol both backwards and forwards ( > and < ) . Johnson says it is likely he developed the two symbols from this symbol.

It is to tell a number on the left or right side.





The greater-than sign (>) is an original ASCII character (hex 3E, decimal 62).

Angle brackets

The greater-than sign is used for an approximation of the closing angle bracket (⟩). ASCII does not have (angular brackets).

Programming language

BASIC and C-family languages, (including Java and C++) use the operator > to mean "greater than". In Lisp-family languages, > is a function used to mean "greater than". In Coldfusion and Fortran, operator .GT. means "greater than".

Double greater-than sign

The double greater-than sign (>>) is used for an approximation of the much greater than sign (≫). ASCII does not have the much greater-than sign.

The double greater-than sign (>>) is also used for an approximation of the closing guillemet (»). ASCII does not have guillemets.

In Java, C, and C++, the operator >> is the right-shift operator. In C++ it is also used to get input from a stream, similar to the C functions getchar and fgets.

In Haskell, the >> function is a monadic operator. It is used for sequentially composing two actions, discarding any value produced by the first. In that regard, it is like the statement sequencing operator in imperative languages, such as the semicolon in C.

Greater-than sign plus equals sign

The greater-than sign plus the equals sign (>=) is used for an approximation of the greater than or equal to sign (≥). ASCII doesn't have a greater-than-or-equal-to sign.

In BASIC, Lisp-family languages, and C-family languages (including Java and C++), operator >= means "greater than or equal to".

In Fortran, operator .GE. means "greater than or equal to".

Example: 5 > 2 means 5 is greater than 2. 6 < 9 means 6 is less than 9.

Shell scripts

In Bourne shell (and many other shells), greater-than sign is used to redirect output to a file. Greater-than plus ampersand (>&) is used to redirect to a file descriptor.

Spaceship operator

Greater-than sign is used in the spaceship operator.


In HTML (and SGML and XML), the greater-than sign is used at the end of tags. The greater-than sign may be included with >, while produces the greater-than or equal to sign.

Electronic mail

The greater-than sign is used to denote quotations in the e-mail and newsgroup formats, and this has been taken into use also in forums.

See also

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