The greater-than symbol is used in various operations that usually pertain to work being done mathematically or with a programming language. The symbol looks similar to a sideways V and has been used in recorded literature as old as the 1560s. Generally, the symbol is used to show inequality between two numbers or expressions. In mathematics, if there are two numbers being looked at as an inequality, the greater-than symbol usually goes in between the two and symbolizes that the first number is greater than the second number (For example: 4 > 2, or 102 > 100). There are other combinations of the greater-than symbol and the 'equals' symbol or the greater-than symbol beside another greater-than symbol that are also used mathematically and computationally.
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 greater than symbol both backwards and forwards ( > and < ). Johnson says it is likely he developed the two symbols from this symbol.
The greater-than sign (>) is an original ASCII character (hex 3E, decimal 62).
Apart from this, Unicode also has the following variants:
- U+232A 〉 RIGHT-POINTING ANGLE BRACKET (HTML
The greater-than sign is used for an approximation of the closing angle bracket (⟩). ASCII does not have angular brackets.
BASIC and C-family languages, (including Java and C++) use the operator > to mean "greater than". In Lisp-family languages, > is a function used to mean "greater than". In Coldfusion and Fortran, operator .GT. means "greater than".
Double greater-than sign
The double greater-than sign (>>) is used for an approximation of the much greater than sign (≫). ASCII does not have the much greater-than sign.
The double greater-than sign (>>) is also used for an approximation of the closing guillemet (»). ASCII does not have guillemets.
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 greater-than sign
The triple greater-than sign (>>>) is the default Python prompt of the interactive shell, often seen for code examples which can be executed interactively in the interpreter- project-dir
~:$ python Python 2.7.5 (default, Mar 9 2014, 22:15:05) [GCC 4.2.1 Compatible Apple LLVM 5.0 (clang-500.0.68)] on darwin Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information. >>> print("Hello World") Hello World >>>
Greater-than sign plus equals sign
The greater-than sign plus the equals sign (>=) is used for an approximation of the greater than or equal to sign (≥). ASCII doesn't have a greater-than-or-equal-to sign.
In Fortran, operator .GE. means "greater than or equal to".
Greater-than sign is used in the spaceship operator.
Texting (SMS), online chat
The greater-than 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.