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Topic: Technical name for a symbol
Replies: 8   Last Post: Oct 4, 1996 12:47 PM

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Ben Sultenfuss

Posts: 11
Registered: 12/3/04
Re: Technical name for a symbol
Posted: Oct 2, 1996 4:50 PM
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The following from "The Words of Mathematics, An Etymological Dictionary
of Mathematical Terms Used in English", Steven Schwartzman, MAA 1994.

vinculum (noun): from Latin vincire "to bind, to tie," of unknown proir origin.
The diminutive vinculum referred to things that were used to bind people, such
as ropes, bonds, or fetters. In mathematics textbooks that were used through
the early years of the 20th century, writers often put a bar over terms that
were intended to be grouped; nowadays we would use parentheses, brackets, or
braces, or other grouping symbols. The bar that was written over two or more
terms cane to be known as a vinculum bucause it bound the terms together.
Historically speaking, when the vinculum was first used by Nicolas Chuquet in
1484, he put it under rather than over the terms being grouped. Some recent
authors hav exteded the definition of vinculum to include the bar between the
numerator and the denominator of a fraction, given that the fraction bar often
acts as a grouping symbol.

----------YOUR MESSAGE------------------------YOUR MESSAGE--------------
Date: Wed, 02 Oct 1996 14:39:53 -0400
From: Calvin Pascal Barton <>
Subject: Technical name for a symbol

Query to me from a Nacogdoches Junior High pupil:
What is the name of the horizontal line used to separate the
numerator from the denominator?
Is it vinculum?

Pat Barton,

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