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< | |
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Less-than sign | |

In Unicode | U+003C < LESS-THAN SIGN (HTML `<` · `<, <` ) |

Related | |

See also | U+2264 ≤ LESS-THAN OR EQUAL TO U+2A7D ⩽ LESS-THAN OR SLANTED EQUAL TO used e. g. in Poland U+226A ≪ MUCH LESS-THAN |

Different from | |

Different from | U+2329 〈 LEFT-POINTING ANGLE BRACKET |

The **less-than sign** is a mathematical symbol that denotes an inequality between two values. The widely adopted form of two equal-length strokes connecting in an acute angle at the left, <, has been found in documents dated as far back as the 1560s. In mathematical writing, the less-than sign is typically placed between two values being compared and signifies that the first number is less than the second number. Examples of typical usage include *1⁄2 < 1* and *−2 < 0*. Since the development of computer programming languages, the less-than sign and the greater-than sign have been repurposed for a range of uses and operations.

## Computing

The **less-than sign**, <, is an original ASCII character (hex 3C, decimal 60).

The less-than sign may be used for an approximation of the opening angle bracket, ⟨. ASCII does not have angle brackets but are standard in Unicode (U+2329 〈 LEFT-POINTING ANGLE BRACKET (HTML `〈`

)). The latter is expected in formal texts.

### Programming language

In BASIC, Lisp-family languages, and C-family languages (including Java and C++), operator `<`

means "less than".

In Coldfusion, operator `.lt.`

means "less than".

In Fortran, operator `.LT.`

means "less than"; later versions allow `<`

.

In Bourne shell, operator `-lt`

means "less than".

### Double less-than sign

The double less-than sign, <<, may be used for an approximation of the much-less-than sign, ≪ or of the opening guillemet, «. ASCII does not have a much-less-than sign.

In Bash, Perl, and Ruby, operator `<<EOF`

(where "EOF" is an arbitrary string, but commonly "EOF" denoting "end of file") is used to denote the beginning of a here document.

In C and C++, operator `<<`

represents a binary left shift.

In the C++ Standard Library, operator `<<`

, when applied on an output stream, acts as *insertion operator* and performs an output operation on the stream.

In Ruby, operator `<<`

acts as *append operator* when used between an array and the value to be appended.

In XPath the `<<`

operator returns true if the left operand precedes the right operand in document order; otherwise it returns false.^{[1]}

### Triple less-than sign

In PHP, operator `<<<OUTPUT`

is used to denote the beginning of a heredoc statement (where `OUTPUT`

is an arbitrary named variable.)

In Bash, `<<<word`

is used as a "here string", where `word`

is expanded and supplied to the command on its standard input, similar to a heredoc.

### Less-than sign plus equals sign

The less-than sign plus the equals sign, `<=`

, may be used for an approximation of the less-than-or-equal-to sign, ≤. ASCII does not have a less-than-or-equal-to sign, but Unicode defines it at code point U+2264.

In BASIC, Lisp-family languages, and C-family languages (including Java and C++), operator `<=`

means "less than or equal to". In Sinclair BASIC it is encoded as a single-byte code point token.

In Prolog, `=<`

means "less than or equal to" (as distinct from the arrow `<=`

).

In Fortran, operator `.LE.`

means "less than or equal to".

In Bourne shell and Windows PowerShell, the operator `-le`

means "less than or equal to".

### Less-than sign plus Hyphen-minus

In the R programming language, the less-than sign is used in conjunction with a hyphen-minus to create an arrow (`<-`

), this can be used as the left assignment operator.

### Shell scripts

In Bourne shell (and many other shells), less-than sign is used to redirect input from a file. Less-than plus ampersand (`<&`

) is used to redirect from a file descriptor.

### Spaceship operator

Less-than sign is used in the spaceship operator.

### HTML

In HTML (and SGML and XML), the less-than sign is used at the beginning of tags. The less-than sign may be included with `<`

. The less-than-or-equal-to sign, ≤, may be included with `≤`

.

## Mathematics

In an inequality, the less-than sign always "points" to the smaller number. Put another way, the "jaws" (the wider section of the symbol) always direct to the larger number.

## See also

## References

**^**"XML Path Language (XPath) 2.0 (Second Edition)".*www.w3.org*. W3C. 14 December 2010. Retrieved 29 October 2019.