# Equals sign

The **equals sign** or **equality sign** (**=**) is a mathematical symbol used to indicate equality. It was invented in 1557 by Robert Recorde. In an equation, the equals sign is placed between two (or more) expressions that have the same value. In Unicode and ASCII, it is U+003D = EQUALS SIGN (HTML `=`

).

= | |
---|---|

Equals sign | |

In Unicode | U+003D = EQUALS SIGN (HTML `=` ) |

Related | |

See also | U+2260 ≠ NOT EQUAL TO (HTML `≠` · `≠` )U+2248 ≈ ALMOST EQUAL TO (HTML `≈` · `≈` ) U+2261 ≡ IDENTICAL TO (HTML `≡` · `≡` ) |

## History

The etymology of the word "equal" is from the Latin word "*æqualis"* as meaning "uniform", "identical", or "equal", from *aequus* ("level", "even", or "just").

The "=" symbol that is now universally accepted in mathematics for equality was first recorded by Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde in *The Whetstone of Witte* (1557). The original form of the symbol was much wider than the present form. In his book Recorde explains his design of the "Gemowe lines" (meaning *twin* lines, from the Latin *gemellus*[1]):[2]

And to auoide the tediouſe repetition of theſe woordes : is equalle to : I will ſette as I doe often in woorke vſe, a paire of paralleles, or Gemowe lines of one lengthe, thus: =, bicauſe noe .2. thynges, can be moare equalle.

And to avoid the tedious repetition of these words: is equal to: I will set as I do often in work use, a pair of parallels, or Gemowe lines of one length, thus: =, because no 2 things, can be more equal.

According to Scotland's University of St Andrews History of Mathematics website:[3]

The symbol '=' was not immediately popular. The symbol || was used by some and

æ(orœ), from the Latin wordaequalismeaning equal, was widely used into the 1700s.

## Usage in mathematics and computer programming

In mathematics, the equals sign can be used as a simple statement of fact in a specific case (x = 2), or to create definitions (let x = 2), conditional statements (if x = 2, then …), or to express a universal equivalence `(x + 1)`

.^{2} = x^{2} + 2x + 1

The first important computer programming language to use the equals sign was the original version of Fortran, FORTRAN I, designed in 1954 and implemented in 1957. In Fortran, "=" serves as an assignment operator: `X = 2`

sets the value of `X`

to 2. This somewhat resembles the use of "=" in a mathematical definition, but with different semantics: the expression following "=" is evaluated first and may refer to a previous value of `X`

. For example, the assignment `X = X + 2`

increases the value of `X`

by 2.

A rival programming-language usage was pioneered by the original version of ALGOL, which was designed in 1958 and implemented in 1960. ALGOL included a relational operator that tested for equality, allowing constructions like `if x = 2`

with essentially the same meaning of "=" as the conditional usage in mathematics. The equals sign was reserved for this usage.

Both usages have remained common in different programming languages into the early 21st century. As well as Fortran, "=" is used for assignment in such languages as C, Perl, Python, awk, and their descendants. But "=" is used for equality and not assignment in the Pascal family, Ada, Eiffel, APL, and other languages.

A few languages, such as BASIC and PL/I, have used the equals sign to mean both assignment and equality, distinguished by context. However, in most languages where "=" has one of these meanings, a different character or, more often, a sequence of characters is used for the other meaning. Following ALGOL, most languages that use "=" for equality use ":=" for assignment, although APL, with its special character set, uses a left-pointing arrow.

Fortran did not have an equality operator (it was only possible to compare an expression to zero, using the arithmetic IF statement) until FORTRAN IV was released in 1962, since when it has used the four characters ".EQ." to test for equality. The language B introduced the use of "==" with this meaning, which has been copied by its descendant C and most later languages where "=" means assignment.

The equals sign is also used in defining attribute–value pairs, in which an attribute is assigned a value.

### Usage of several equals signs

In PHP, the triple equals sign (`===`

) denotes value and type equality,[4] meaning that not only do the two expressions evaluate to equal values, but they are also of the same data type. For instance, the expression `0 == false`

is true, but `0 === false`

is not, because the number 0 is an integer value whereas false is a Boolean value.

JavaScript has the same semantics for `===`

, referred to as "equality without type coercion". However, in JavaScript the behavior of `==`

cannot be described by any simple consistent rules. The expression `0 == false`

is true, but `0 == undefined`

is false, even though both sides of the `==`

act the same in Boolean context. For this reason it is sometimes recommended to avoid the `==`

operator in JavaScript in favor of `===`

.[5]

In Ruby, equality under `==`

requires both operands to be of identical type, e.g. `0 == false`

is false. The `===`

operator is flexible and may be defined arbitrarily for any given type. For example, a value of type `Range`

is a range of integers, such as `1800..1899`

. `(1800..1899) == 1844`

is false, since the types are different (Range vs. Integer); however `(1800..1899) === 1844`

is true, since `===`

on `Range`

values means "inclusion in the range".[6] Under these semantics, `===`

is non-symmetric; e.g. `1844 === (1800..1899)`

is false, since it is interpreted to mean `Integer#===`

rather than `Range#===`

.[7]

## Other uses

### Spelling

#### Tone letter

The equals sign is also used as a grammatical tone letter in the orthographies of Budu in the Congo-Kinshasa, in Krumen, Mwan and Dan in the Ivory Coast.[8][9] The Unicode character used for the tone letter (U+A78A)[10] is different from the mathematical symbol (U+003D).

#### Personal names

A possibly unique case of the equals sign of European usage in a person's name, specifically in a double-barreled name, was by pioneer aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, as he is also known not only to have often used a double hyphen resembling an equals sign (=) between his two surnames in place of a hyphen, but also seems to have personally preferred that practice, to display equal respect for his father's French ethnicity and the Brazilian ethnicity of his mother.[11]

Instead of a double hyphen, the equals sign is sometimes used in Japanese as a separator between names. In Ojibwe, the readily-available equal sign on a keyboard is used as a substitute for a double hyphen.

### Linguistics

In linguistic interlinear glosses, an equals sign is conventionally used to mark clitic boundaries: the equals sign is placed between the clitic and the word that the clitic is attached to.[12]

### Chemistry

In chemical formulas, the two parallel lines denoting a double bond are commonly rendered using an equals sign.

### LGBT symbol

In recent years, the equals sign has been used to symbolize LGBT rights. The symbol has been used since 1995 by the Human Rights Campaign, which lobbies for marriage equality, and subsequently by the United Nations Free & Equal, which promotes LGBT rights at the United Nations.[13]

## Related symbols

### Approximately equal

Symbols used to denote items that are approximately equal include the following:[14]

- ≈ (U+2248, LaTeX
*\approx*) - ≃ (U+2243, LaTeX
*\simeq*), a combination of ≈ and =, also used to indicate asymptotic equality - ≅ (U+2245, LaTeX
*\cong*), another combination of ≈ and =, which is also sometimes used to indicate isomorphism or congruence - ∼ (U+223C, LaTeX
*\sim*), which is also sometimes used to indicate proportionality or similarity, being related by an equivalence relation, or to indicate that a random variable is distributed according to a specific probability distribution (see also tilde) - ∽ (U+223D, LaTex
*\backsim*), which is also used to indicate proportionality - ≐ (U+2250, LaTeX
*\doteq*), which can also be used to represent the approach of a variable to a limit - ≒ (U+2252, LaTeX
*\fallingdotseq*), commonly used in Japan, Taiwan and Korea. - ≓ (U+2253, LaTex
*\risingdotseq*)

### Not equal

The symbol used to denote inequation (when items are not equal) is a slashed equals sign "≠" (U+2260; 2260,Alt+X in Microsoft Windows). In LaTeX, this is done with the "\neq" command.

Most programming languages, limiting themselves to the 7-bit ASCII character set and typeable characters, use `~=`

, `!=`

, `/=`

, or `<>`

to represent their Boolean inequality operator.

### Identity

The triple bar symbol "≡" (U+2261, LaTeX *\equiv*) is often used to indicate an identity, a definition (which can also be represented by U+225D "≝" or U+2254 "≔"), or a congruence relation in modular arithmetic.

### Isomorphism

The symbol "≅" is often used to indicate isomorphic algebraic structures or congruent geometric figures.

### In logic

Equality of truth values, i.e. bi-implication or logical equivalence, may be denoted by various symbols including =, ~, and ⇔.

### Other related symbols

Additional symbols in Unicode related to the equals sign include:[14]

- ≌ (U+224C ≌ ALL EQUAL TO)
- ≔ (U+2254 ≔ COLON EQUALS) (see also assignment (computer science))
- ≕ (U+2255 ≕ EQUALS COLON)
- ≖ (U+2256 ≖ RING IN EQUAL TO)
- ≗ (U+2257 ≗ RING EQUAL TO)
- ≙ (U+2259 ≙ ESTIMATES)
- ≚ (U+225A ≚ EQUIANGULAR TO)
- ≛ (U+225B ≛ STAR EQUALS)
- ≜ (U+225C ≜ DELTA EQUAL TO)
- ≞ (U+225E ≞ MEASURED BY)
- ≟ (U+225F ≟ QUESTIONED EQUAL TO).

## Incorrect usage

The equals sign is sometimes used incorrectly within a mathematical argument to connect math steps in a non-standard way, rather than to show equality (especially by early mathematics students).

For example, if one were finding the sum, step by step, of the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, one might incorrectly write

- 1 + 2 = 3 + 3 = 6 + 4 = 10 + 5 = 15.

Structurally, this is shorthand for

- ([(1 + 2 = 3) + 3 = 6] + 4 = 10) + 5 = 15,

but the notation is incorrect, because each part of the equality has a different value. If interpreted strictly as it says, it implies

- 3 = 6 = 10 = 15 = 15.

A correct version of the argument would be

- 1 + 2 = 3, 3 + 3 = 6, 6 + 4 = 10, 10 + 5 = 15.

This difficulty results from subtly different uses of the sign in education. In early, arithmetic-focused grades, the equals sign may be *operational*; like the equals button on an electronic calculator, it demands the result of a calculation. Starting in algebra courses, the sign takes on a *relational* meaning of equality between two calculations. Confusion between the two uses of the sign sometimes persists at the university level.[15]

## Encodings

- U+003D = EQUALS SIGN (HTML
`=`

)

Related:

- U+2260 ≠ NOT EQUAL TO (HTML
`≠`

**·**`≠`

)

## Notes

- See also geminus and Gemini.
- Recorde, Robert,
*The Whetstone of Witte*… (London, England: Jhon Kyngstone, 1557), the third page of the chapter "The rule of equation, commonly called Algebers Rule." - "Robert Recorde".
*MacTutor History of Mathematics archive*. Retrieved 19 October 2013. -
"Comparison Operators".
*PHP.net*. Retrieved 19 October 2013. -
Crockford, Doug. "JavaScript: The Good Parts".
*YouTube*. Retrieved 19 October 2013. -
why the lucky stiff. "5.1 This One's For the Disenfranchised".
*why's (poignant) Guide to Ruby*. Retrieved 19 October 2013. - Rasmussen, Brett (30 July 2009). "Don't Call it Case Equality".
*pmamediagroup.com*. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 19 October 2013. - Peter G. Constable; Lorna A. Priest (31 July 2006).
*Proposal to Encode Additional Orthographic and Modifier Characters*(PDF). Retrieved 19 October 2013. - Hartell, Rhonda L., ed. (1993).
*The Alphabets of Africa*. Dakar: UNESCO and SIL. Retrieved 19 October 2013. - "Unicode Latin Extended-D code chart" (PDF).
*Unicode.org*. Retrieved 19 October 2013. - Gray, Carroll F. (November 2006). "The 1906 Santos=Dumont No. 14bis".
*World War I Aeroplanes*. No. 194: 4. - "Conventions for interlinear morpheme-by-morpheme glosses". Retrieved 2017-11-20.
- "HRC Story: Our Logo."
The Human Rights Campaign.
*HRC.org*, Retrieved 4 December 2018. - "Mathematical Operators" (PDF).
*Unicode.org*. Retrieved 19 October 2013. - Capraro, Robert M.; Capraro, Mary Margaret; Yetkiner, Ebrar Z.; Corlu, Sencer M.; Ozel, Serkan; Ye, Sun; Kim, Hae Gyu (2011). "An International Perspective between Problem Types in Textbooks and Students' understanding of relational equality".
*Mediterranean Journal for Research in Mathematics Education*.**10**(1–2): 187–213. Retrieved 19 October 2013.

## References

- Cajori, Florian (1993).
*A History of Mathematical Notations*. New York: Dover (reprint). ISBN 0-486-67766-4. - Boyer, C. B.:
*A History of Mathematics*, 2nd ed. rev. by Uta C. Merzbach. New York: Wiley, 1989 ISBN 0-471-09763-2 (1991 pbk ed. ISBN 0-471-54397-7)