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In mathematics, the absolute value of a number n is either −n if n is negative or n itself if otherwise.

Is there a single word or shorter description for the replacement of n with its absolute value?

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I think you would call it "modulus n" but writing |n| is shortest of all. Perhaps I've misunderstood the question. [Sorry, can't get an italic n inside vertical bars] – Andrew Leach Jul 22 '12 at 22:30
@AndrewLeach No, modulus is something else; it’s the remainder function, as in 7 mod 3 is 1 (because 3 goes into 7 twice with a remainder of 1), usually written 7 % 3 == 1 in C-derived programming languages. – tchrist Jul 22 '12 at 22:35
@tchrist I know that as modulo, not modulus. – Andrew Leach Jul 22 '12 at 22:37
@AndrewLeach I’ve only heard magnitude for abs(x), never modulus. I would just hate for a paired ‑us and a ‑o term to be that different, because it’s just a different case ending to, or a different/later evolution of, the same Latin word. For a good time, try to find programming languages that allow you to actually write abs(x) as |x|. – tchrist Jul 22 '12 at 22:41
RE modulo/modulus: My understanding is that in the expression x % y = z, e.g. 7 mod 3 = 1, y is the modulus, and we read the expression as "x modulo y equals z". – Jay Jul 23 '12 at 3:23
up vote 7 down vote accepted

|n| is called taking its magnitude. That is the value without the sign, if you would.

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Your format does not fit the mobile version of EL&U; you should edit the following string that is shown on the screen: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠ – user19148 Jul 22 '12 at 23:06
Furthermore, as engineer, I do not ever hear "magnitude" to refer to abs(Z). – user19148 Jul 22 '12 at 23:11
@Carlo_R. There is no string shown on the screen. I have no idea what you are talking about. If there are requirements about this smartypantys phone of yours that everyone is expected to follow, they should be built into the edit widget. And they aren’t. Try a real computer. – tchrist Jul 22 '12 at 23:54
Whatever happened to "Civility is required at all times"? – Ryogi Jul 23 '12 at 2:53

It’s hard to say without having a context, but you might be able to use unsigned, as in Compute the absolute difference between unsigned integers using sse.

You can also just talk about ignoring the sign.

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