Vertical bar

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Vertical bar
apostrophe   '
brackets [ ]  ( )  { }  ⟨ ⟩
colon :
comma ,  ،  
dash ‒  –  —  ―
ellipsis   ...  . . .
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full stop, period .
guillemets ‹ ›  « »
hyphen-minus -
question mark  ?
quotation marks ‘ ’  “ ”  ' '  " "
semicolon ;
slash, stroke, solidus /  
Word dividers
interpunct ·
General typography
ampersand &
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at sign @
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dagger † ‡
degree °
ditto mark
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numero sign
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multiplication sign ×
ordinal indicator º ª
percent, per mil  % ‰
plus and minus + −
equals sign =
basis point
section sign §
tilde ~
underscore, understrike _
vertical bar, pipe, broken bar |    ¦
Intellectual property
copyright ©
sound-recording copyright
registered trademark ®
service mark
currency sign ¤

฿¢$֏ƒ£ ¥

Uncommon typography
index, fist
irony punctuation
In other scripts

The vertical bar ( | ) is a computer character and glyph with various uses in mathematics, computing, and typography. It has many names, often related to particular meanings: Sheffer stroke (in logic), verti-bar, vbar, stick, broken bar, vertical line, vertical slash, bar, glidus, obelisk, or pipe.



The vertical bar is used as a mathematical symbol in

  • absolute value: , read "the absolute value of x".
  • norms: , read "the norm of x one, x two"; though Unicode also provides a special double vertical line symbol U+2016: ‖x
  • Parallelism in geometry, where indicates that the line is parallel to the line .
  • set-builder notation: , read "the set of x such that x is less than two". Often a colon ':' is used instead of a vertical bar.
  • cardinality: , read "the cardinality of the set S".
  • conditional probability: , read "the probability of X given Y".
  • divisibility: , read "a divides b" or "a is a factor of b", though Unicode also provides special ‘divides’ and ‘does not divide’ symbols (U+2223 and U+2224: ∣, ∤)
  • the Sheffer stroke in logic: , read "a nand b".
  • distance: distance notes the shortest distance between point to line , so is perpendicular to line .
  • evaluate (subscript notation): , read "f of x, evaluated at x equals 4" (see subscripts at Wikibooks)
  • restriction: denotes a restriction of function where it is defined over a domain that is a superset of .
  • Sometimes a vertical bar following a function, with sub- and super-script limits 'a' and 'b' is used when evaluating definite integrals to mean 'f(x) from a to b', or 'f(b)-f(a)'.
  • A vertical bar can be used to separate variables from fixed parameters in a function, for example .
  • The determinant of a matrix A is sometimes written , and when the matrix entries are written out, the determinant is denoted by surrounding the matrix entries by vertical bars instead of the brackets or parentheses of the matrix, for instance


The vertical bar is used in bra–ket notation in quantum physics. Examples:

  • : The quantum physical state "".
  • : The dual state corresponding to the state above.
  • : The inner product of states and .



Main article: Pipeline (Unix)

A pipe is an inter-process communication mechanism originating in Unix, which allows the output (standard out and, optionally, standard error) of one process to be used as input (standard in) to another. In this way, a series of commands can be "piped" together, giving users the ability to quickly perform complex multi-stage processing from the command line or as part of a Unix shell script ("bash file"). In most Unix shells (command interpreters), this is represented by the vertical bar character. For example:

grep -i 'blair' filename.log | more

where the output from the "grep" process is piped to the "more" process.

The same "pipe" feature is also found in later versions of DOS and Microsoft Windows.

This usage has led to the character itself being called "pipe".


In many programming languages, the vertical bar is used to designate the logic operation or, either bitwise or or logical or.

Specifically, in C and other languages following C syntax conventions, such as C++, Perl, Java and C#, a | b denotes a bitwise or; whereas a double vertical bar a || b denotes a (short-circuited) logical or. Since the character was originally not available in all code pages and keyboard layouts, ANSI C can transcribe it in form of the trigraph ??!, which, outside string literals, is equivalent to the | character.

In regular expression syntax, the vertical bar again indicates logical or. For example: the Unix command grep -E 'foo|bar' matches lines containing 'foo' or 'bar'.


The double vertical bar operator "||" denotes string concatenation in PL/I, standard ANSI SQL, and theoretical computer science (particularly cryptography).


Although not as common as commas or tabs, the vertical bar can be used as a delimiter in a flat file. Examples of a pipe-delimited standard data format are LEDES 1998B and HL7. It is frequently used because vertical bars are typically uncommon in the data itself.

Similarly, the vertical bar may see use as a delimiter for regular expression operations (e.g. in sed). This is useful when the regular expression contains instances of the more common forward slash (/) delimiter; using a vertical bar eliminates the need to escape all instances of the forward slash. However, this makes the bar unusable as the regular expression "alternative" operator.

Backus–Naur form[edit]

In Backus–Naur form, an expression consists of sequences of symbols and/or sequences separated by '|', indicating a choice, the whole being a possible substitution for the symbol on the left.

<personal-name> ::= <name> | <initial>

Concurrency operator[edit]

In calculi of communicating processes (like pi-calculus), the vertical bar is used to indicate that processes execute in parallel.


The pipe in APL is the modulo or residue function between two operands and the absolute value function next to one operand.

List comprehensions[edit]

Main article: List comprehensions

The vertical bar is used for list comprehensions in some functional languages, e.g. Haskell and Erlang. Compare set-builder notation.

Phonetics and orthography[edit]

In the Khoisan languages and the International Phonetic Alphabet, the vertical bar is used to write the dental click (ǀ). A double vertical bar is used to write the alveolar lateral click (ǁ). Since these are technically letters, they have their own Unicode code points in the Latin Extended-B range: U+01C0 for the single bar and U+01C1 for the double bar. Longer single and double vertical bars are used to mark prosodic boundaries in the IPA.



In medieval European manuscripts, a single vertical bar was a common variant of the virgula/⟩ used as a period, scratch comma,[1] and caesura mark.[2]

In Sanskrit and other Indian languages, text blocks used to be written in stanzas. Two bars || represent the equivalent of a pilcrow.


A double vertical bar ⟨||⟩ or ⟨‖⟩ is the standard caesura mark in English literary criticism and analysis. It marks the strong break or caesura common to many forms of poetry, particularly Old English verse.


In the Geneva Bible and early printings of the King James Version, a double vertical bar is used to mark margin notes that contain an alternative translation from the original text. These margin notes always begin with the conjunction "Or". In later printings of the King James Version, the double vertical bar is irregularly used to mark any comment in the margins.


The vertical bar is encoded in Unicode at U+007C | VERTICAL LINE (124decimal · HTML &#124;).

Solid vertical bar vs broken bar[edit]

The code point 124 (7C hexadecimal) is occupied by a broken bar in a dot matrix printer of the late 1980s, which apparently lacks a solid vertical bar. Due to this, broken bar is also used for vertical line approximation. See the full picture (3,000 × 2,500 pixels).

The broken bar (¦) in computing was historically an allograph of the vertical bar and was perceived so before a broad implementation of extended ASCII character sets (namely, ISO/IEC 8859 series), which did distinguish both. Since the 1990s, it is considered a separate character, not a part of ASCII, and also termed "parted rule" in Unicode documentation. But in many fonts, the glyph used for the vertical bar looks exactly like a broken bar.[3]

The broken bar is encoded in Unicode at U+00A6 ¦ BROKEN BAR (166decimal · HTML &#166; · &brvbar;).

Due to historical confusion between the two, computer keyboards and displays may not clearly or consistently differentiate them:

  • The typical keyboard layout used in the United Kingdom features separate keys for vertical bar and broken bar; however, in many fonts the vertical bar key produces a broken-bar symbol.[4][5] Some keyboard drivers map the broken bar key to the vertical bar, and the vertical bar key, shared with the grave accent (`), generates the broken bar when pressed in combination with AltGr.
  • The ANSI QWERTY keyboard has only a broken bar key, producing a vertical bar character.
  • A key on the French AZERTY keyboard always produces a vertical bar character, but is represented on the key itself as a broken bar. The same holds for many German QWERTZ keyboards, where the “> < |” key in the lower left is labelled “> < ¦” but always produces a vertical bar character.

The broken bar has hardly any practical application and does not appear to have any clearly identified uses distinct from the vertical bar.[6] In non-computing use — for example in mathematics, physics and general typography — the broken bar is not an acceptable substitute for the vertical bar. Aforementioned usages in computing rely on the abstract character with code point 124 (0x7C) in ASCII (or ASCII compatible code page) and do not depend on visual rendering, which actually may be a broken bar in some environments.

Some variants of the EBCDIC family of code pages such as EBCDIC 500 distinguished the broken bar from the solid vertical bar.[citation needed]

In common character maps[edit]

Vertical bar ('|') Broken bar ('¦')
CP437, CP667, CP720, CP737, CP790, CP819, CP852, CP855, CP860, CP861, CP862, CP865, CP866, CP867, CP869, CP872, CP895, CP932, CP991
124 (7Ch) N/A[7]
CP775 124 (7Ch) 167 (A7h)
CP850, CP857, CP858 124 (7Ch) 221 (DDh)
CP863 124 (7Ch) 160 (A0h)
CP864 124 (7Ch) 219 (DBh)
ISO/IEC 8859-1, -7, -8, -9, -13,
CP1250, CP1251, CP1252, CP1253, CP1254, CP1255, CP1256, CP1257, CP1258
124 (7Ch) 166 (A6h)
ISO/IEC 8859-2, -3, -4, -5, -6, -10, -11, -14, -15, -16 124 (7Ch) N/A
Unicode U+007C U+00A6
EBCDIC (CCSID 500 variant) 187 (BBh) 166 (A6h)
Shift-JIS Men-Ku-Ten 1-01-35
HTML &#124; &brvbar; or &#166;

Additional related Unicode characters:

  • Double vertical line ( ‖ ): U+2016 used in pairs to indicate norm
  • Parallel to ( ∥ ): U+2225
  • Latin letter dental click (⟨ǀ⟩): U+01C0
  • Latin letter lateral click (⟨ǁ⟩): U+01C1
  • Symbol 'divides' (⟨∣⟩): U+2223
  • Various Box-drawing characters at U+2500 to U+257F

In text processing[edit]

In LaTeX, the vertical bar can be used as delimiter in mathematical mode. The sequence \| creates a double vertical line (a | b \| c is set as ). This has different spacing from \mid and \parallel, which are relational operators: a \mid b \parallel c is set as . In LaTeX text mode, the vertical bar produces an em dash (—), or one can use the \textbar command instead.

The vertical bar is also used as special character in other lightweight markup languages, notably Wikipedia's own Wikitext.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "virgula, n.", Oxford English Dictionary, 1st ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1917 .
  2. ^ "virgule, n.", Oxford English Dictionary, 1st ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1917 .
  3. ^ Jim Price (2010-05-24). "ASCII Chart: IBM PC Extended ASCII Display Characters". Retrieved 2012-02-23. 
  4. ^ "Is Your Pipe Wrong?". 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2015-12-01. 
  5. ^ "Two guys walked into a bar, but the bar was broken". 2006-02-24. Retrieved 2015-12-01. 
  6. ^ Jukka "Yucca" Korpela (2006-09-20). "Detailed descriptions of the characters". Retrieved 2012-02-23. 
  7. ^ Broken bar is no longer considered a part of ASCII since early 1990s