I'm working on a mobile app that will be available in many different languages. I have a text input that lets you enter an integer, and beside it, a "+" and "-" button so you can easily increment or decrement it.

Are "+" and "-" icons the best choice for audiences in other languages?

  • Can you clarify which specific languages you mean? Or more broadly are you referring to non-Latin alphabets ie Cyrillic, Arabic etc?
    – Midas
    Aug 20, 2017 at 8:06
  • @Midas I was trying to ask the question about all languages, not specifically the ones I offer. My app is available in 12 languages, including several non-Latin alphabets, but I was asking this question partially to be future-proof for other languages I might add later. Aug 21, 2017 at 7:05

2 Answers 2


When dealing with mathematical symbols, most languages are pretty consistent, even those using alternatives to western Arabic numerals, and have been for a few hundred years.

The biggest thing you need to worry about is separators, which may vary considerably in shape and placement, and mirroring certain symbols (radicals, for instance) when the language is right-to-left.

Since + and - are not separators, the first issue does not apply. Since they are symmetrical, the second issue does not apply.

In short: + and - for increment and decrement should be readily understood in most languages. Whether they are the best symbol for a given app or audience is a more nuanced question, but there shouldn't be any concerns around ambiguity.


Math operators in most cases tend to be the same in every language. "+" and "-" are the best choice for audiences in other languages.

  • 1
    NEARLY the same in MOST languages. Nothing is universal, and conventions do change. Remember how recently dot overtook a cross for multiplication? That said, these two symbols happen to be as close to Aug 20, 2017 at 23:29
  • Yeah. I used "should" because I wasn't sure. Thanks. Aug 20, 2017 at 23:33

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