For explaining operator precedence in an algorithm, I'd like a hypernym for addition and subtraction.

  • Just as in algebra, in computer programming multiplicative operators such as /, *, and % have priority over additive operators such as + and , while exponential operators like ** are even higher in precedence than either of the previous two groups.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 2:10
  • 1
    Operators or operations are the usual terms. Operators are metaphorized as agents: The "times" operator combines x and y in the following way.... Operations are events, not agents: Repeating a number x y times constitutes an operation of multiplication. Commented May 13, 2014 at 2:46
  • Mathematically speaking, multiplication and division are connected but not the same operation, since division requires the use of fractions to be equated to multiplication. Therefore it would be inaccurate to refer to them with one word. Commented May 13, 2014 at 5:28
  • I edited the question to simplify it because it was clearly hard to understand before. Now please just focus on a hypernym for addition and subtraction. This word should not be a hypernym for division and multiplication though!! The point is to differentiate the operations by precedence. Commented May 13, 2014 at 6:04
  • @sbwoodside The parallel relations are: Subtraction = addition of additive inverse. Division = multiplication by multiplicative inverse.
    – Barmar
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 20:37

3 Answers 3


I'm not sure there's a standard term. If I needed to group the operators like this, I would say that addition and subtraction comprise the additive operators, and multiplication and division comprise the multiplicative operators.


I would label them final/last operators since they would be done last and close the question.

  • But they might not be the last operations performed.
    – user28567
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 23:58
  • I imagine the context might be something like "The <word> operators are done last because they have lowest precedence." Calling them the last operators makes it circular.
    – Barmar
    Commented May 14, 2014 at 3:11

Arithmetic is the closest word to what we're looking for. Technically it includes multiplication and division. If you're worried about that, maybe you could emphasize what you're implying by saying basic arithmetic.

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