Re: So what's null then if it's not nothing?

From: Hugo Kornelis <hugo_at_pe_NO_rFact.in_SPAM_fo>
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 2005 22:12:55 +0100
Message-ID: <>

On 28 Nov 2005 17:46:15 -0800, wrote:


>NULL, as defined in mathematics and according to the root meaning for >the word in the dictionary, is, properly, an empty set or "not any".

Hi Mike,

Please tell me what dictionary you checked. Here are some quotes from dictionaires I checked:

(Merriam-Websters Online Dictionary, 10th Edition)

1 : having no legal or binding force : INVALID
2 : amounting to nothing : NIL
3 : having no value : INSIGNIFICANT

4 a : having no elements <null set> b : having zero as a limit <null sequence> c of a matrix : having all elements equal to zero

The root meaning is a legal definition. The SQL definition "no value here" is third. The mathematical def is fourth.

(The American Heritage(R) Dictionary of the English Language)
1. Having no legal force; invalid: render a contract null and void. 2. Of no consequence, effect, or value; insignificant. 3. Amounting to nothing; absent or nonexistent: a null result. 4. Mathematics Of or relating to a set having no members or to zero magnitude.

The same definitions as Merriam-Webster, and in the same sequence.

(Encarta World English Dictionary, North American Edition)

1. invalid: having no legal validity
2. valueless: having no value or importance
3. amounting to nothing: amounting to nothing in terms of context or
4. at zero level: at the level of zero or nothing
5. mathematics relating to zero: relating to or equal to zero
6. mathematics empty: used to describe a mathematical set containing no
the null set
7. mathematics ending in zero: converging to zero a null sequence
8. physics indicating reading of zero: indicating a reading of zero when a measured quantity is undetectable or equal to another in comparison

Here, the SQL def promotes to second place. The mathematical empty def drops to sixth place.

(Cambridge International Dictionary of English)
--> lists only NULL AND VOID, not NULL as a word of it's own.adjective [after verb] LEGAL
having no legal force:

(Cambridge Dictionary of American English)
(of an agreement or contract) having no legal effect and to be
considered therefore as if it did not exist

Let's get back to the pre-computing days, then:
(Webster's Revised Unabridged, 1913 Edition)
--> as adjective
Of no legal or binding force or validity; of no efficacy; invalid; void; nugatory; useless.

--> as noun
1. Something that has no force or meaning. 2. That which has no value; a cipher; zero. Bacon. Null method
(Physics.), a zero method. See under Zero.

(Webster's 1828 Dictionary)

--> as adjective
Void; of no legal or binding force or validity; of no efficacy; invalid. The contract of a minor is null in law, except for necessaries.

--> as noun
Something that has no force or meaning. A cipher is called a null. [Not used.]

Hmmm. Scientifical dictionaries, then? finds only one definition in the category science:


Nothing, absence, does not exist.

I give up. I'm sure that the mathematical definition of NULL is the root meaning in the dictionary you consulted, but I can't figure out which dictionary that was.

Best, Hugo


(Remove _NO_ and _SPAM_ to get my e-mail address)
Received on Wed Nov 30 2005 - 22:12:55 CET

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