Pronunciation: /ˈɒpəˌreɪ.tər/ Explain

An operator represents a mathematical operation. Some common operators are:

Math Operators
+AdditionBinary 3 + 2 = 5
- Subtraction Binary3 - 2 = 1
×, ·, * Multiplication Binary3 × 2 = 6
÷, /DivisionBinary 3 ÷ 2 = 1.5
^ExponentiationBinary 3 ^ 2 = 9
-NegationUnary a + -b = a - b
!FactorialUnary 4! = 4·3·2·1 = 24

The operands associated with an operator are inputs to the operator. The result is the output. For example, in the expression 1 + 2, the operator is +, and the operands are 1 and 2. The output is created by adding 1 and 2 to get the result which is 3.

An operator can be considered a function because it takes operands as input and returns an output. The independent variables are the operands, the dependent variable is the output, and the function is the operator.

An operator can be a unary operator or a binary operator. A unary operator has one operand. An example of a unary operator is negation. In the equation -a = 3, the negative sign\ (-) in front of the a has only one operand, the a, so it is a unary operator.

The most common operators are binary operators. A binary operator takes two operands. Addition is an example of a binary operator. In the equation b + c = 4, the operator is + and the two operands are b and c.

It is also possible to create operators with more than two operands. However, such operators are generally expressed as functions.


  1. McAdams, David E.. All Math Words Dictionary, operator. 2nd Classroom edition 20150108-4799968. pg 130. Life is a Story Problem LLC. January 8, 2015. Buy the book

More Information

  • McAdams, David E.. Operand. allmathwords.org. All Math Words Encyclopedia. Life is a Story Problem LLC. 3/12/2009. https://www.allmathwords.org/en/o/operand.html.

Cite this article as:

McAdams, David E. Operator. 4/27/2019. All Math Words Encyclopedia. Life is a Story Problem LLC. https://www.allmathwords.org/en/o/operator.html.

Revision History

4/27/2019: Changed equations and expressions to new format. (McAdams, David E.)
12/21/2018: Reviewed and corrected IPA pronunication. (McAdams, David E.)
9/5/2018: Removed broken links, updated license, implemented new markup. (McAdams, David E.)
8/7/2018: Changed vocabulary links to WORDLINK format. (McAdams, David E.)
12/21/2009: Added "References". (McAdams, David E.)
9/1/2008: Added 'More Information'. (McAdams, David E.)
5/29/2008: Changed table of operators. (McAdams, David E.)
7/16/2007: Initial version. (McAdams, David E.)

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