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absolute value

absolute value, magnitude of a number or other mathematical expression disregarding its sign; thus, the absolute value is positive, whether the original expression is positive or negative. In symbols, if | a | denotes the absolute value of a number a, then | a | = a for a > 0 and | a | = - a for a < 0. For example, |7| = 7 since 7 > 0 and | - 7| = - ( - 7), or | - 7| = 7, since - 7 < 0.

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

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