Multiplication sign

The multiplication sign, also known as the times sign or the dimension sign, is the symbol ×, used in mathematics to denote the multiplication operation and its resulting product.[1][2] While similar to a lowercase X (x), the form is properly a four-fold rotationally symmetric saltire.[3]

The earliest known use of the × symbol to represent multiplication appears in an anonymous appendix to the 1618 edition of John Napier's Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis Descriptio.[4] This appendix has been attributed to William Oughtred,[4] who used the same symbol in his 1631 algebra text, Clavis Mathematicae, stating:

"Multiplication of species [i.e. unknowns] connects both proposed magnitudes with the symbol 'in' or ×: or ordinarily without the symbol if the magnitudes be denoted with one letter".[5]

Two earlier uses of a notation have been identified, but do not stand critical examination.[4]

In biology, the multiplication sign is used in a botanical hybrid name, for instance Ceanothus papillosus × impressus (a hybrid between C. papillosus and C. impressus) or Crocosmia × crocosmiiflora (a hybrid between two other species of Crocosmia). However, the communication of these hybrid names with a Latin letter "x" is common, when the actual "×" symbol is not readily available.

The multiplication sign is also used by historians for an event between two dates. When employed between two dates – for example 1225 and 1232 – the expression "1225×1232" means "no earlier than 1225 and no later than 1232".[8]

A monadic × symbol is used by the APL programming language to denote the sign function.

The lower-case Latin letter x is sometimes used in place of the multiplication sign. This is considered incorrect in mathematical writing.

In algebraic notation, widely used in mathematics, a multiplication symbol is usually omitted wherever it would not cause confusion: "a multiplied by b" can be written as ab or a b.[2]

Other symbols can also be used to denote multiplication, often to reduce confusion between the multiplication sign × and the common variable x. In some countries, such as Germany, the primary symbol for multiplication is the "dot operator" (as in a⋅b). This symbol is also used in algebraic notation to resolve ambiguity (for instance, "b times 2" may be written as b⋅2, to avoid being confused with a value called b2). This notation is used wherever multiplication should be written explicitly, such as in "ab = a⋅2 for b = 2"; this usage is also seen in English-language texts. In some languages, the use of full stop as a multiplication symbol, such as a.b, is common when the symbol for decimal point is comma.

Historically, computer language syntax was restricted to the ASCII character set, and the asterisk * became the de facto symbol for the multiplication operator. This selection is reflected in the standard numeric keypad, where the arithmetic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are represented by the keys +, -, * and /, respectively.