Sorry for such a stupid/simple question, but I was wondering about the most common name for the arithmetic operator for division. For example:

  • Addition: + "plus". Example: two plus two.
  • Subtraction: - "minus". Example: two minus two.
  • Multiplication: * "times". Example: two times two.
  • Division: ???

The only one I've heard in common spoken english is "divided by", but was wondering if there was a simpler (non-formal) term like there are for the other three.

Finally, just to re-emphasize I don't mean the "slash" or "obelisk", I mean actually that anyone past second grade would know immediately what that term means (the only one I can think of is "divided by").

  • $\begingroup$ How much simpler do you want it, one syllable, or less? As far as I know, most mathematicians don't have a problem like this, because the don't read formulas moving their lips. $\endgroup$ – user436658 Dec 2 '20 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ $\dfrac{a}{b}$ can be read a over b $\endgroup$ – across Dec 2 '20 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ Informally, "over", as in "twelve over four is equal to three." $\endgroup$ – Théophile Dec 2 '20 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ @across ok, yea that seems to be the simplest/most common thanks for that. $\endgroup$ – David542 Dec 2 '20 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ "over" is common, but you have to watch out for regional variations. I'm not sure about "over", but there some regions where people say "$a$ on $b$" to mean division, but other regions where "$a$ on $b$" means addition. I've heard it used for both. $\endgroup$ – Paul Sinclair Dec 3 '20 at 3:56

Usually, $\frac{a}{b}$ can be read as "a over b." This is usually used more with fractions than whole numbers, though.

People also say "$a$ out of $b$," usually when dealing with data and/or whole numbers. For example, a basketball player may be "3 out of 4" from the free-throw line.

Sometimes this can be simplified to "$a$ for $b$." With the basketball player example, that same player is also "$3$ for $4$" from the free-throw line.

However, if speaking in a more mathematical sense, people tend to say "divided by," just because it's easier to understand; the operation is in the word.


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