What is the correct way to make the "does not divide" symbol in plain LaTeX 2e?

I'm talking about the symbol that is a vertical bar with a slash through it. I prefer not to install AMS or other packages, but instead to use plain LaTeX.


try this:

$x\nmid y$

it's been known to 'save the day'.

  • That doesn't work in plain LaTeX. Do you know what package must be loaded to make it work? I tried \usepackage{amsfonts} but that doesn't work. And I still prefer a plain LaTeX solution. – user448810 Aug 5 '11 at 22:33
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    I got \nmid working with \usepackage{amssymb}. – user448810 Aug 5 '11 at 22:46

Detexify is amazingly helpful in finding any symbol.


Using \not with | works with plain LaTeX:

$2 \not| \;3 $

The symbols \\, and \: and \; create varying degrees of space if the symbols get too close.

  • I wonder why the \not introduces so much space. – Dylan Moreland Jun 22 '12 at 1:11
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    I'm not sure which space you're talking about but try this: $2 \!\!\not| \,3 $. The \! is negative space to get things closer together on the right and \, will reduce space on the right – DJP Jun 22 '12 at 1:26
  • Oh, I didn't think you'd come back to this! Thanks very much. I just meant that while a|b is nice and compact, a\not|b puts a strange amount of space between a and |. – Dylan Moreland Jun 22 '12 at 1:28
  • I don't know why \not has so much extra space but if I had to guess it might be because \not can be used in conjunction with a lot of other symbols which are wider than | [eg \not\in or \not\subset]. So some combinations will look better than others depending on the symbol width being negated. – DJP Jun 22 '12 at 1:48
  • The spacing on \not\mid was ok when I used it on mathoverflow (mathoverflow.net/questions/256598/…) – theHigherGeometer Dec 7 '16 at 7:41

To minimize used packages you can do this:
From then on \ndiv will add the sign with appropriate spaces before and after.

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    If the font size changes, this can cause a lot of headache. At least you can opt for units like ex,em but still it would not be robust enough to be used elsewhere. – percusse Nov 27 '12 at 1:11
  • @percusse: can you provide a more robust way? – cxxl May 23 '13 at 8:02
  • @cxxl The answers above are pretty good. Otherwise you can look for the definitions from the LaTeX versions and carry them to plain TeX as raw macros. – percusse May 23 '13 at 20:55

The ∤ symbol is available in Unicode as U+2224 Does Not Divide, and as \nmid from many packages, including: unicode-math, amssymb, stix, stix2, newtxmath and the less commonly-usedmnsymbol, fdsymbol and boisk.


After fine tuning, I'm pretty happy with defining a new command \doesnotdivide (or whatever you'd like to name it) as: \newcommand{\doesnotdivide}{\not\hspace{2.5pt}\mid}

I found that three points was too much and 2 points was not enough offset.

  • This is somewhat similar to blerbl's answer. Note that a comment there points out that measuring in em would be better than pt, since it would automatically adjust to a change in font size. – Teepeemm May 2 '19 at 0:23

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