TL;DR: Is there a name for the largest value of $f$ for which $f|n$ and $n/f \ge f$? Or a name for the smallest value of $f$ for which $f|n$ and $n/f < f$?

Additional clarification. This question occurred to me while writing a very short piece of code to find the factors of a number and making a small optimisation to it. When you try to find the factors of a number $n$ you can simply take each element of the sequence $1, 2, 3, ..., n$ and check if $n$ is divisible by it. A first optimisation is to limit yourself to possible factors $f$ for which $f <= n/2$ (yielding only the proper divisors) and add $n$ itself to the set. A second optimisation is to stop at the first $f$ for which $n/f < f$. At that point the remainder of the factors can be found by dividing $n$ by each already found factor. I'm interested in knowing whether there's a name for this "pivot" element and its properties.


  • For 12 the largest such $f$ is 3, since the remaining factors can be found by dividing 12 by 1, 2 and 3. The smallest "pivot" would be 4 as at that point $12/4 < 4$
  • For any prime number $p$ the largest $f$ so that $f|p$ and $p/f \ge f$ is 1, and the smallest $f$ so that $f|p$ and $p/f < f$ is $p$.
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You could stop checking for factors at the square root of $n$: for example $\sqrt{12} \approx 3.46$. If you are restricted to integers, stop trying at the first potential factor $f$ where $f\times f \gt n$ $\endgroup$ – Henry Apr 2 '19 at 20:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Henry Thanks mate. I suppose stopping at the first $f$ where $n/f < f$ is kind of equivalent. It would imply one extra check which I'll consider negligible. $\endgroup$ – G_H Apr 2 '19 at 21:28

not sure about names; however, this leads directly into what we call Fermat's method of factoring. Given odd $n,$ find $ w =\lfloor \sqrt n \rfloor.$ Then increase $w$ one by one, and just check whether $w^2 - n$ is a square. If $w^2 - n = t^2,$ then $w^2 - t^2 = n,$ and $n = (w+t)(w-t).$

Your desired number, the largest factor below $\sqrt n,$ would appear as the first $(w-t).$

Fermat's is, among really elementary methods, the opposite of checking small prime factors. It is quick if $n$ is the product of two numbers (possibly prime) of very similar size


  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the explanation and link. Optimisation and algorithms aside though, I'm just wondering if there's a specific term for this point at which the remaining factors are derivative of the ones already found. $\endgroup$ – G_H Apr 2 '19 at 21:30

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