fraction

Definitions

General English

General Science

  • noun a component of a mixture separated out by a fractional process

Accounting

  • noun a very small amount

Computing

  • noun a part of a whole unit, expressed as one figure above another, e.g. 1/4, 1/2, or a figure after a decimal point, e.g. 25.
  • noun a mantissa of a floating point number.

Publishing

  • noun a number shown as one figure above another

Origin & History of “fraction”

like fracture (15th c.), which preserves its etymological meaning more closely, fraction comes ultimately from fractus, the past participle of Latin frangere ‘break’. This verb goes back to prehistoric Indo-European *bhr(e)g-, which also produced English break. The Latin derived noun fractiō simply meant ‘breaking’, particularly with reference to the breaking of Communion bread, but all trace of this literal sense has now virtually died out in English, leaving only the mathematical sense ‘number produced by division’ and its metaphorical offshoots. Amongst the English meanings that have disappeared is ‘discord, quarrelling’, but before it went it produced fractious (18th c.).
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