# Less-than sign

The **less-than sign** is a sign of inequality. The less-than symbol is used in various operations that usually pertain to work being done mathematically or with a programming language. The symbol looks similar to a sideways "V" and is generally used to show inequality between two numbers or expressions. In mathematics, if there are two expressions being compared as an inequality, the less-than symbol usually goes between the two and symbolizes that the first number is less than the second number, for example `2<4` or `x<102`. The symbol can also be used to the left of a single number to denote the concept of any lesser number, for example "less than 4" would be written as `<4`. There are other combinations of the less-than symbol and the 'equals' symbol and multiple less-than symbols which are also used mathematically and computationally.

## Computing

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

The less-than sign is used for an approximation of the opening angle bracket (⟨). ASCII does not have angle brackets.

### 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 (`<<`) is used for an approximation of the much-less-than sign (≪) or of the opening guillemet («). ASCII does not have much-less-than sign or guillemets.

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.

### 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 (`<=`) is used for an approximation of the less-than-or-equal-to sign (≤). ASCII doesn't a have a less-than-or-equal-to sign, but Unicode defines it at codepoint 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 Fortran, operator `.LE.` means "less than or equal to".

In Bourne shell and Windows PowerShell, the operator `-le` means "less than or equal to".

### 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" always go for the larger number.