I'm curious what sign means in the context of mathematical notation. I'm reading a paper right now and it uses:

$$ sign \overrightarrow{\lambda} \cdot \overrightarrow{a} $$

Is that equivalent to $\pm$ ?

I've never seen this before.


  • 1
    $\begingroup$ probably signum, which is $1$ if the argument is positive, $-1$ if the argument is negative, and $0$ if the argument is exactly $0.$ $\endgroup$
    – Will Jagy
    Nov 14, 2013 at 6:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It is used as the $\large{\tt sgn}$ function. $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2013 at 6:38

1 Answer 1


The value $\operatorname{sign}(x)$ equals $-1$, $0$, or $1$ depending upon whether the value $x$ is negative, zero, or positive. Sometimes this is written as $\operatorname{sgn}(x)$ as is the case here.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the explanation. $\endgroup$
    – Matt
    Nov 14, 2013 at 6:14

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