Recently I looked up the meaning of "superscript" in the dictionary of https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/superscript

At Point 2 of "superscript" in American, the following explanation is given with an example such as;

a figure, letter, or symbol written above and to the side of another

in y2 and xn, 2 and n are superscripts

My question is what the "another" means in this case. Basically another means something additional.

For example, in the case of "m2", superscript is 2 which means square meter. Why does the superscript, 2 is expressed as written above and to the side of "another"? There are no figures, letter or symbols to the side of "m".

Please explain what "another" means in this case.

Thank you in advance.

  • 1
    The nice answers from katatahito and Jason Bassord are referring to a process called ellipsis. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellipsis_(linguistics). In your example, the words "figure, letter, or symbol" have been omitted from the end of the sentence because (1) the meaning can be inferred without them (by someone familiar with ellipsis) and (2) to include them might cause the sentence to sound repetitive or wordy. Jul 1 '19 at 21:42

Another here is short for another figure, letter or symbol.

Therefore the "another" in your case of m2 for meters-squared, the "m" is what "another" is referring to. "2" is written above and to the side of "m", which is another [figure, letter or symbol].


To paraphrase the dictionary entry:

a figure, letter, or symbol (such as 2 or n) written above and to the side of another (such as y or n)

in y2 and x2, 2 and n are superscripts

It is no different that saying something like this:

The word be is comprised of one letter (e) written to the right of another (b).

From the Merriam-Webster definition of the pronoun another:

1 : an additional one of the same kind : one more
// one copy to send out, another for the files

  • 4
    IMHO, in the paraphrasing, it would have been clearer to state "... written above and to the side of another figure, letter, or symbol (such as y or n)" - as it is the "another" in isolation which seems to be causing the OP's confusion. Jul 1 '19 at 21:13

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