What’s In a Name

Who can ever remember which is the minuend and which is the subtrahend? Why couldn’t they be called something easy, like “addends,” where both have the same name!? So simple. It makes sense that they have different names since commutative property doesn’t apply to subtraction. The two numbers at play have different roles. Sure. I can be convinced of this. But still, why couldn’t we have agreed upon slightly less foreign terms? Terms that fit within my vernacular. I was curious about the etymology of these words, hoping upon hopes that knowing the background might help me remember which one is which. Here’s what I’ve found, hopefully it will help you, too…

(Most information derived from Wikipedia)

Not surprisingly, both words “minuend” and “subtrahend” are Latin (as is “subtraction”).

  • Minuend is derived from minuere and means “to diminish.” Think of minuend as the number that you are going to diminish.
  • Subtrahend is derived from trahere meaning “to pull” and sub meaning “from under.” BOOM!


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