I am puzzled about the word "dot" in the context of the following paragraph:

Mark on a line the points satisfying the following inequalities, using a circle to indicate an end point which is omitted from an interval and a dot to indicate an end point which is included.

Marquez sur une ligne les points satisfaisant aux inégalités suivantes, en utilisant un cercle pour indiquer un point final qui est exclus d'un intervalle et un point pour indiquer un point final qui est inclus.

Both dot and point are translated by point in French. Is there a way to avoid the possible ambiguity? The original English texts refers to this

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(I know that here in France we represent differently open intervals.)

  • 1
    Well the translation you propose seems fine, at least I think I would get the exercise right only by reading these instructions. If it really bothers you, maybe you could make it less ambiguous by precising "cercle creux" instead of just "cercle", or provide an example of what is expected just after citing it? That said, unless "point final" is the proper technical word for it, I would also avoid using this translation and use for example "borne" or "limite" (but this could be confusing as limits are something else in math).
    – Laurent S.
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 10:38
  • 1
    It seems clear that you should say empty circle, which would be cercle creux as @Laurent suggests, and solid circle, which I suspect might translate as cercle plein. Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 13:59

1 Answer 1


There does not exist a well established terminology for these symbols in French; in geometry the term "gros point" could relevantly have been used for "dot". In English the terminology is ambiguous as far as the term "circle" goes : what is called "circle" must here be understood arbitrarily as merely the boundary of a circular area whereas in everyday language "circle" refers to both the curve and the surface to which it is a boundary.

This ambiguity was part of the everyday language in French too, while en mathematics the word "cercle" tended to mean "circular area" containing its boundary (tolological terminology : disque fermé), and "circonférence" was only the curve. Nowadays, "cercle" et "circonférence" are synonyms!

(encyclopédie libre) Pendant longtemps, le langage courant a employé le mot « cercle » autant pour nommer la courbe (circonférence) que la surface qu'elle délimite. De nos jours, en mathématiques, le cercle désigne exclusivement la ligne courbe, la surface étant, quant à elle, appelée disque.

According to modern terminology you could now use the terms "cercle (minuscule)¹" and "disque (minuscule)¹" to translate "circle" and "dot" respectively. For the purpose of refering to geometric symbols it doesn't matter to make precise what type of disk is meant (it can be understood as open (boundary not included) or closed (boundary included)). You might even use gros point for "dot" instead of "disque".

¹The fully descriptive term can be used occasionally to call attention to the fact that those geometric lines and shapes must be quite small.

  • Pourquoi le downvoting ?
    – Dimitris
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 15:13
  • @Dimitris Je ne sais pas ! Encore un détail ou peut-être même rien du tout, cela arrive souvent et on a beau écrire des commentaires disant que les gens aimeraient bien savoir ce qui leur vaut des votes négatifs, rien n'y fait. Il est possible par exemple que l'appellation « gros point » n'ait pas plu ; elle est très générale, pas du tout spécialisée à un contexte particulier mais elle est quand même suffisamment descriptive pour être utile. Je n'appelle pas cela une erreur, si c'en est une, qui justifierait un vote négatif. Je ne donne jamais de vote négatif pour de petites choses comme ça
    – LPH
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 15:26

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