39

I know that ^ is called a caret, but this doesn't seem to apply to the similarly shaped but nonetheless different < and > symbols. The only names I've heard them called is the less-than sign and the greater-than sign, but those names seem rather informal and apply only to their use in math. The symbols are used in other contexts as well, so it seems they would have less specific names.

Does anyone know the technical term for these symbols? (I know that some symbols, like . and ( ), have different names in American and British English, so any differences there with < and > would be appreciated as well.)

60

You asked what the “technical name” is; those technical names are given in bold below, although there are others less formal as well.

The answer depends on precisely which character you mean. It might be a less-than sign, an angle quotation mark, or an angle bracket. In handwritten manuscripts and on primitive old-school typewriters there is no real difference, but in modern representations of actual characters and the fonts that use these, there is.

Mostly it comes down to one of the following four, with name assignments to numeric code points given as defined by the Unicode Standard, along with some of the more salient character properties like their general category and whether they are to be considered punctuation, a math character, and/or a type of quotation mark:

  1. U+003C <:   LESS-THAN SIGN
    Unicode character properties include General Category=Math Symbol; Math
  2. U+2039 :  SINGLE LEFT-POINTING ANGLE QUOTATION MARK
    Unicode character properties include General Category=Initial Punctuation; Quotation Mark
  3. U+3009 : LEFT ANGLE BRACKET
    Unicode character properties include General Category=Open Punctuation
  4. ‭U+27E8 MATHEMATICAL LEFT ANGLE BRACKET
    Unicode character properties include General Category=Open Punctuation; Math

Notice how one and four are math although the first is a symbol and the last a punctuation mark, two is actually a kind of quotation mark, and both two and three are distinct sorts of punctuation that have corresponding close/final versions. All are bidirectionally mirrored in that they have corresponding right-hand versions.

These are supposed to be used for different things.

There are a lot of these, and you aren’t going to be able to reliably use your eyes to tell the difference between things like these:

  < 003C        LESS-THAN SIGN
  ‹ 2039        SINGLE LEFT-POINTING ANGLE QUOTATION MARK
 〈 3009        LEFT ANGLE BRACKET
 〈 2329        LEFT-POINTING ANGLE BRACKET
  ⟨ 27E8 ‭       MATHEMATICAL LEFT ANGLE BRACKET
 ﹤ FE64        SMALL LESS-THAN SIGN
 < FF1C        FULLWIDTH LESS-THAN SIGN

And that's merely the start of it. Here are confusable pairs separated by a → symbol, first using their glyphs and then using their actual names:

〈 → ❬  LEFT ANGLE BRACKET → MEDIUM LEFT-POINTING ANGLE BRACKET ORNAMENT
〈 → ❬  LEFT-POINTING ANGLE BRACKET → MEDIUM LEFT-POINTING ANGLE BRACKET ORNAMENT
⟨ → ❬   MATHEMATICAL LEFT ANGLE BRACKET → MEDIUM LEFT-POINTING ANGLE BRACKET ORNAMENT
˂ → <   MODIFIER LETTER LEFT ARROWHEAD → LESS-THAN SIGN
ᐸ → <   CANADIAN SYLLABICS PA → LESS-THAN SIGN
ᚲ → <   RUNIC LETTER KAUNA → LESS-THAN SIGN
‹ → <   SINGLE LEFT-POINTING ANGLE QUOTATION MARK → LESS-THAN SIGN
❮ → <   HEAVY LEFT-POINTING ANGLE QUOTATION MARK ORNAMENT → LESS-THAN SIGN
≪ → <<  MUCH LESS-THAN → LESS-THAN SIGN, LESS-THAN SIGN
⋘ → <<< VERY MUCH LESS-THAN → LESS-THAN SIGN, LESS-THAN SIGN, LESS-THAN SIGN
ᑅ → <·  CANADIAN SYLLABICS WEST-CREE PWA → LESS-THAN SIGN, MIDDLE DOT 
⋖ → <·  LESS-THAN WITH DOT → LESS-THAN SIGN, MIDDLE DOT 
Ⲵ → <·  COPTIC CAPITAL LETTER OLD COPTIC AIN → LESS-THAN SIGN, MIDDLE DOT 
⪥ → ><  GREATER-THAN BESIDE LESS-THAN → GREATER-THAN SIGN, LESS-THAN SIGN
ᑄ → ·<  CANADIAN SYLLABICS PWA → MIDDLE DOT, LESS-THAN SIGN

There are many more, of which these are merely a few of them. In the following tables, the number is the Unicode code point (character number) and the ALL CAPS NAME is the official technical name assigned to that number. There are also these bits:

  • The = entries are unofficial synonyms or common names, kind of like the common names used instead the formal scientific genus and species names in biology.
  • The x entries are basically SEE ALSOs for confusables.
  • The * entries are informative notes.
  <  003C        LESS-THAN SIGN
        x (single left-pointing angle quotation mark - 2039)
        x (left-pointing angle bracket - 2329)
        x (mathematical left angle bracket - 27E8)
        x (left angle bracket - 3008)
 >  003E        GREATER-THAN SIGN
        x (single right-pointing angle quotation mark - 203A)
        x (right-pointing angle bracket - 232A)
        x (mathematical right angle bracket - 27E9)
        x (right angle bracket - 3009)
 «  00AB        LEFT-POINTING DOUBLE ANGLE QUOTATION MARK
        = left guillemet
        = chevrons (in typography)
        * usually opening, sometimes closing
        x (much less-than - 226A)
        x (left double angle bracket - 300A)
 »  00BB        RIGHT-POINTING DOUBLE ANGLE QUOTATION MARK
        = right guillemet
        * usually closing, sometimes opening
        x (much greater-than - 226B)
        x (right double angle bracket - 300B)
 ‹  2039        SINGLE LEFT-POINTING ANGLE QUOTATION MARK
        = left pointing single guillemet
        * usually opening, sometimes closing
        x (less-than sign - 003C)
        x (left-pointing angle bracket - 2329)
        x (left angle bracket - 3008)
 ›  203A        SINGLE RIGHT-POINTING ANGLE QUOTATION MARK
        = right pointing single guillemet
        * usually closing, sometimes opening
        x (greater-than sign - 003E)
        x (right-pointing angle bracket - 232A)
        x (right angle bracket - 3009)
 ≪  226A        MUCH LESS-THAN
       x (left-pointing double angle quotation mark - 00AB)
 ≫  226B        MUCH GREATER-THAN
        x (right-pointing double angle quotation mark - 00BB)
 ≶  2276        LESS-THAN OR GREATER-THAN
 ≷  2277        GREATER-THAN OR LESS-THAN
 ⋖  22D6        LESS-THAN WITH DOT
 ⋗  22D7        GREATER-THAN WITH DOT
 ⋘  22D8        VERY MUCH LESS-THAN
 ⋙  22D9        VERY MUCH GREATER-THAN
 ⋚  22DA        LESS-THAN EQUAL TO OR GREATER-THAN
 ⋛  22DB        GREATER-THAN EQUAL TO OR LESS-THAN
 ⋜  22DC        EQUAL TO OR LESS-THAN
 ⋝  22DD        EQUAL TO OR GREATER-THAN
 ⋦  22E6        LESS-THAN BUT NOT EQUIVALENT TO
 ⋧  22E7        GREATER-THAN BUT NOT EQUIVALENT TO
 〈 2329        LEFT-POINTING ANGLE BRACKET
        x (less-than sign - 003C)
        x (single left-pointing angle quotation mark - 2039)
        x (mathematical left angle bracket - 27E8)
        : 3008 left angle bracket
 〉 232A        RIGHT-POINTING ANGLE BRACKET
        x (greater-than sign - 003E)
        x (single right-pointing angle quotation mark - 203A)
        x (mathematical right angle bracket - 27E9)
        : 3009 right angle bracket
  ❬  276C       MEDIUM LEFT-POINTING ANGLE BRACKET ORNAMENT
    x (left-pointing angle bracket - 2329)
 ❭  276D       MEDIUM RIGHT-POINTING ANGLE BRACKET ORNAMENT
    x (right-pointing angle bracket - 232A)
 ❮  276E       HEAVY LEFT-POINTING ANGLE QUOTATION MARK ORNAMENT
    x (single left-pointing angle quotation mark - 2039)
 ❯  276F       HEAVY RIGHT-POINTING ANGLE QUOTATION MARK ORNAMENT
    x (single right-pointing angle quotation mark - 203A)
 ❰  2770       HEAVY LEFT-POINTING ANGLE BRACKET ORNAMENT
 ❱  2771       HEAVY RIGHT-POINTING ANGLE BRACKET ORNAMENT
 ⨠  2A20        Z NOTATION SCHEMA PIPING
        x (much greater-than - 226B)
 ⩹  2A79        LESS-THAN WITH CIRCLE INSIDE
 ⩺  2A7A        GREATER-THAN WITH CIRCLE INSIDE
 ⩽  2A7D        LESS-THAN OR SLANTED EQUAL TO
        x (less-than or equal to - 2264)
 ⩾  2A7E        GREATER-THAN OR SLANTED EQUAL TO
        x (greater-than or equal to - 2265)
 ⪕  2A95        SLANTED EQUAL TO OR LESS-THAN
        x (equal to or less-than - 22DC)
 ⪖  2A96        SLANTED EQUAL TO OR GREATER-THAN
        x (equal to or greater-than - 22DD)
 ⪛  2A9B        DOUBLE-LINE SLANTED EQUAL TO OR LESS-THAN
 ⪜  2A9C        DOUBLE-LINE SLANTED EQUAL TO OR GREATER-THAN
 ⪡  2AA1        DOUBLE NESTED LESS-THAN
        = absolute continuity
        x (much less-than - 226A)
 ⪢  2AA2        DOUBLE NESTED GREATER-THAN
        x (much greater-than - 226B)
 ⪤  2AA4        GREATER-THAN OVERLAPPING LESS-THAN
 ⪥  2AA5        GREATER-THAN BESIDE LESS-THAN
 ⫷  2AF7        TRIPLE NESTED LESS-THAN
        x (very much less-than - 22D8)
 ⫸  2AF8        TRIPLE NESTED GREATER-THAN
        x (very much greater-than - 22D9)
 ⫹  2AF9        DOUBLE-LINE SLANTED LESS-THAN OR EQUAL TO
        x (less-than over equal to - 2266)
 ⫺  2AFA        DOUBLE-LINE SLANTED GREATER-THAN OR EQUAL TO
        x (greater-than over equal to - 2267)
 〈 3008        LEFT ANGLE BRACKET
        x (less-than sign - 003C)
        x (single left-pointing angle quotation mark - 2039)
        x (left-pointing angle bracket - 2329)
        x (mathematical left angle bracket - 27E8)
 〉 3009        RIGHT ANGLE BRACKET
        x (greater-than sign - 003E)
        x (single right-pointing angle quotation mark - 203A)
        x (right-pointing angle bracket - 232A)
        x (mathematical right angle bracket - 27E9)
 ﹤ FE64        SMALL LESS-THAN SIGN
        # <small> 003C
 ﹥ FE65        SMALL GREATER-THAN SIGN
        # <small> 003E
 < FF1C        FULLWIDTH LESS-THAN SIGN
        # <wide> 003C
 > FF1E        FULLWIDTH GREATER-THAN SIGN
        # <wide> 003E
  • 1
    +1, I like that this is the first answer to address the multiple Unicode code points involved. However, I think you might mention that regardless of the characters' names or official prescriptions for use, the less-than and greater-than signs are commonly used as a type of brackets, probably because they can easily be typed and their display is more widely supported than that of the other symbols. – sumelic Jun 26 '15 at 22:35
  • 1
    @sumelic You’re right that there is a large difference between manuscript use, typewriter use, and professionally set type. There is also a substantive difference between common names used by laymen treating the computer keyboard as though it were a 19th-century typewriter and professionals who, making this sort of thing their business, would never dream of doing that. I suppose I could dig out what Bringhurst has to say about these glyphs (or sorts as he would probably put it) if need be, but that might not satisfy non-professionals. – tchrist Jun 26 '15 at 23:03
  • 003C is used, correctly, as a left-angle-bracket in contexts where extended character sets are to be avoided, as in HTML and XML code. While its use as a bracket should be avoided outside such contexts, I think it is wrong to say that 003C is exclusively and strictly a less-than symbol. – Yoav Kallus Jun 27 '15 at 1:10
  • 1
    @YoavKallus The OP requested the “technical names” for these symbols, which I have duly provided. – tchrist Jun 27 '15 at 1:30
  • 1
    @QuinnComendant These are the names given by the Unicode Standard. The file citations are from their NamesList.txt file, used to derive the official name property. Other properties can be found in UnicodeData.txt and other files. – tchrist Jun 27 '15 at 11:12
23

As a web developer I frequently use angle brackets in markup. The World Wide Web Consortium is the standards organization for HTML, and in their recommendation for HTML 5, they refer specifically to Unicode character 003C:

The first character of a start tag must be a "<" (U+003C) character.

003C is generally the character produced from the keyboard (shift + comma on a US keyboard). (You can produce all the other pointy-arrow characters from the keyboard; most of them are just further away.) The Unicode standard labels this character as the LESS-THAN SIGN.

However, in practice these characters are referred to as angle brackets:

The following code fails because the opening tag is missing an angle bracket, and the intended boundary of the tag is unclear.

You can also refer to them in context as opening and closing brackets:

Opening and closing tags that are missing the opening < and closing > brackets.

My hope here is to provide some context to what I believe to be the most common case.

  • 1
    And their names are STAGO and TAGC. (Or rather, that's what their names used to be back when HTML was based off of SGML.) – Mr Lister Jun 28 '15 at 6:53
  • 1
    When they are used as brackets I have heard the word "brocket" as a portmanteau of "broken bracket". – Paul Johnson Jun 28 '15 at 11:34
17

They can also be called chevrons, or angle brackets.

While these terms can be interchangeable in a layman's context, and would not look so different when written by hand, there are 4 different symbols in the Unicode standard, and they have different usages. In mathematics, "greater than" and "lesser than" would be the correct precise terms. In HTML markup, for example, the term would be bracket, which is not the same as a single chevron, sometimes used (though usually as a pair, called a guillemet) to introduce a quotation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bracket#Angle_brackets

  • 2
    Not really. This so overly simplifies the matter as to risk misleading the reader. – tchrist Jun 26 '15 at 22:07
  • 2
    @tchrist Yes and no. On the one hand, your answer was a detailed, in-depth analysis of all the possible things that symbol could be / has been called- which is important and useful, which is why I upvoted it- but on the other hand this answer gives the most common names (besides less-than sign and greater-than sign), and so if you just want a quick answer on which good / recognizable word / phrase to use, this answer does the trick. – Parthian Shot Jun 26 '15 at 23:17
  • 2
    @tchrist Basically, I feel like I'm in a custody battle between your answer and this guy's answer, and you're making me choose. You're tearing this family apart, tchrist. – Parthian Shot Jun 26 '15 at 23:20
  • 1
    I think we need a question on gender-neutral pronouns here ;) – Mar Zum Jun 26 '15 at 23:21
  • 3
    @tchrist Single angle brackets can be called chevrons, and are in the link in this answer. See also: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevron_%28insignia%29 – Kimball Jun 27 '15 at 3:07
1

GUILLEMET

I believe the proper name for the symbol in question is "Guillemet". This is what I was taught to call it more than 40 years ago in school. However, I must mention that even while being taught the appropriate name, the lesson came with a caveat... "most often we would hear it referred to as a 'greater than sign' or a 'less than sign' because in contemporary English Grammar the use of this symbol has fallen out of favor - but is used very widely in mathematical and algebraic expressions." (paraphrased) That lesson turned out to be very prophetic as it is more accurate now than it was then! Moreover, that prophecy was proved multiple times during the few hours and scores of websites & reference books upon which I relied to verify my memory. For it seems, in almost every instance, and regardless of the source's unique definition of the symbol, each example was accompanied with the common definition of "Greater Than Sign" and / or "Less Than Sign".

Rather than trying to rewrite what I found to be a very simple and basic definition of GUILLEMET, it seems far more logical to provide a link to a source which I believe comports accurately with my knowledge and my memory; as well as verifying the name which I have used to describe the symbols for the last 40 years!

GUILLEMET

  • 1
    The term "guillemet" is already presented in Mar Zum's answer. – sumelic Jun 30 '15 at 0:19
  • I would associate guillemet with double chevrons (« and ») as quotation marks in French, though I suppose there could be pattern matching English “double” and ‘single’ quotation marks so ‹ single › . These would still be smaller than < and > – Henry Dec 9 '18 at 10:45
-3

enter image description here

  • The notation a < b means that a is less than b.
  • The notation a > b means that a is greater than b.

In either case, a is not equal to b. These relations are known as strict inequalities. The notation a < b may also be read as "a is strictly less than b".

In contrast to strict inequalities, there are two types of inequality relations that are not strict:

  • The notation a ≤ b means that a is less than or equal to b (or, equivalently, not greater than b, or at most b).
  • The notation a ≥ b means that a is greater than or equal to b (or, equivalently, not less than b, or at least b).

An additional use of the notation is to show that one quantity is much greater than another, normally by several orders of magnitude.

The notation a ≪ b means that a is much less than b. (In measure theory, however, this notation is used for absolute continuity, an unrelated concept.)

The notation a ≫ b means that a is much greater than b.

Source:https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inequality_(mathematics)

  • 2
    Unforunately, you haven't answered the question -- what is the printer's name for the characters "<" and ">"; you've told us what they mean in a mathematical context, but the OP specifically asked about contexts other than math. – deadrat Jun 28 '15 at 4:03
-6

"<" is Left Anchor

">" is Right Anchor

  • 3
    Could we have a source for this usage? – deadrat Jun 27 '15 at 6:48
  • Hi, Girish Babu C. Because this site's formatting conventions use the right angle bracket to indicate "Block Quote," you haven't succeeded in stating your answer as clearly as you intended. I do know what you meant to say, and I'm tempted to see whether preceding the angle brackets with bullet-point formatting might enable you to avoid the problem. I'll check it and see if it works. (Followup: Bullet-point formatting doesn't help, but putting the brackets in quotation marks seems to work.) – Sven Yargs Jun 27 '15 at 7:05
  • 1
    I’ve never head of those names, and Google hasn’t, either. – Ry- Jun 27 '15 at 7:08

protected by tchrist Aug 26 '15 at 0:46

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