What symbol should I use for a set complement? It seems that the \complement isn't quite appropriate: it seems taller (perhaps a unary operator to appear before a set?). I guess for now \mathsf{c} works.

  • 4
    The amsfonts symbol \complement is often used, but there's no general consensus about an "official" symbol. I've seen it denoted in several different ways (personally, I don't like \complement).
    – egreg
    Commented Apr 17, 2011 at 7:56
  • Have a look at “How to look up a math symbol?” for ideas how you can easily find a particular symbol. Commented Apr 17, 2011 at 7:58
  • 9
    Since the notion of a complement requires a containing set, if that set has a name, say X, then you can simply write $X\setminus A$ where A is the set for which you want the complement.
    – TH.
    Commented Apr 17, 2011 at 8:06

1 Answer 1


As the commenters have said, there isn't a strong consensus on this one. Here are a few conventions I know about:


    \stcomp{(A \cup B)} = \stcomp{A} \cap \stcomp{B}


\newcommand{\stcomp}[1]{{#1}^\complement}  \eqn
\renewcommand{\stcomp}[1]{\overline{#1}}           \eqn
\renewcommand{\stcomp}[1]{{#1'}}           \eqn
\renewcommand{\stcomp}[1]{\widetilde{#1}}           \eqn
\renewcommand{\stcomp}[1]{{#1}^{\sim}}           \eqn
\renewcommand{\stcomp}[1]{{#1}^{\mathsf{c}}}           \eqn
\renewcommand{\stcomp}[1]{X\setminus{#1}}           \eqn


sample code

Of all of these I've used ^\complement the most, and the overbar is the one I've seen the most. I have to say I really like your ^\mathsf{c} implementation.

  • 1
    My textbooks use the minus sign, so that $X - A$ picks out the set of members of X that aren't in A. Is the minus sign commonly used for something else?
    – twofeet
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 21:04
  • 6
    If X is an abelian monoid (i.e., has a subtraction operation) then X-A could be the set of all elements of X which can be expressed as difference of elements of X and A. But I can't say that's a very popular usage. I would be reluctant to use the minus sign when \setminus is available. Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 20:40
  • 1
    Twofeet, do you mean that your textbooks write $-A$ for the complement of $A$ or simply that they write $X - A$ for the set difference? Either way, I suppose that $\setminus{A}$ (or $\setminus A$) would also be an option for the complement. Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 20:09

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