subtraction, fundamental operation of arithmetic; the inverse of addition. If *a* and *b* are real numbers (see number), then the number *a* - *b* is that number (called the difference) which when added to *b* (the subtractor) equals *a* (the subtrahend). In terms of addition the symbol - *b* is called the additive inverse of *b* with the property that the sum of a number and its inverse equals 0, or *b* +( - *b* ) = 0. It follows that - ( - *b* ) = *b.* The subtraction of *b* from *a* is the same as the addition of *a* and the inverse of *b,* or *a* - *b* = *a* +( - *b* ); e.g., when *a* = 10 and *b* = 5, then 10 - 5 = 10+( - 5).

*The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia,* 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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