The
greaterthan sign is a mathematical symbol that denotes an inequality between two values. The widely adopted form of two equallength strokes connecting in an
acute angle at the right,
>, has been found in documents dated as far back as the 1560s. In typical mathematical usage, the greaterthan sign is typically placed between the two values being compared and signals that the first number is greater than the second number. Examples of typical usage include
1½ > 1 and
1 > −2. Since the development of computer programming languages, the greaterthan sign and the
lessthan sign have been repurposed for a range of uses and operations.
History
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. The text states: "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 greaterthan sign both backwards and forwards ( > and < ).[ Johnson says it is likely he developed the two symbols from this symbol.]
Computing
The
greaterthan sign (
>) is an original
ASCII character (hex 3E, decimal 62).
The character in Unicode is ; this is inherited from the same value in ASCII.
Apart from this, Unicode also has the following variants:
Angle brackets
The greaterthan sign is used for an approximation of the closing angle bracket (⟩). ASCII does not have angular brackets.
Programming language
BASIC and Cfamily languages, (including Java and C++) use the operator
> to mean "greater than". In Lispfamily languages,
> is a function used to mean "greater than".
In
Coldfusion and
Fortran, operator
.GT. means "greater than".
Double greaterthan sign
The double greaterthan sign (
>>) is used for an approximation of the much greater than sign (≫). ASCII does not have the much greaterthan sign.
The double greaterthan sign (>>) is also used for an approximation of the closing Guillemets (»).
In Java, C, and C++, the operator >> is the rightshift 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.
Triple greaterthan sign
The triple greaterthan sign (>>>) is the unsigned right shift operator in
JavaScript, and is the default Python prompt of the interactive shell, often seen for code examples which can be executed interactively in the interpreter
~:$ python
Python 2.7.5 (default, Mar 9 2014, 22:15:05)
GCC on darwin
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> print("Hello World")
Hello World
>>>
Greaterthan sign with equals sign
The greaterthan sign plus the equals sign (
>=) is used for an approximation of the greater than or equal to sign (≥). ASCII doesn't have a greaterthanorequalto sign.
In BASIC, Lispfamily languages, and Cfamily languages (including Java and C++), operator >= means "greater than or equal to". In Sinclair BASIC it is encoded as a singlebyte code point token.
In Fortran, operator .GE. means "greater than or equal to".
In Bourne shell and Windows PowerShell, the operator ge means "greater than or equal to".
Hyphenminus with greaterthan sign
In some programming languages (for example F#), the greaterthan sign is used in conjunction with a
hyphenminus to create an arrow (
>). Arrows like these could also be used in text where other arrow symbols are unavailable. In the R programming language, this can be used as the right assignment operator. In the C, C++, and C# programming languages, this is used as a member access operator.
Shell scripts
In
Bourne shell (and many other shells), greaterthan sign is used to redirect output to a file. Greaterthan plus ampersand (
>&) is used to redirect to a
file descriptor.
Spaceship operator
Greaterthan sign is used in the spaceship operator.
HTML
In
HTML (and
SGML and
XML), the greaterthan sign is used at the end of tags. The greaterthan sign may be included with
>, while
≥ produces the greaterthan or equal to sign.
Electronic mail
The greaterthan sign is used to denote
in the
email and
newsgroup formats, and this has been taken into use also in forums.
Texting (SMS), online chat
The greaterthan sign is used to express the act (or intent) of rubbing noses, typically in an affectionate or playful manner, with the recipient of the text/instant message.
See also

Inequality (mathematics)

Lessthan sign

Relational operator

Mathematical operators and symbols in Unicode

Muchgreaterthan sign

Guillemet

Material conditional