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质数 and 素数 both mean "prime numbers" in chinese.

What's the difference in their nuances and usage?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

质数 and 素数 are perfect synonyms. As far as I am aware of, both are used across all Chinese speaking regions.

I couldn't find a reliable source on the origins or why there are two dissimilar terminologies for the same concept, but in the textbooks published in mainland China since late 90's, 质数 is the word for it, while in non-textbooks and older textbooks the two synonyms are used equally frequently.

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see the wikipedia for the prime numbers in Chinese;

in very first it says: 质数,又稱素数, so to translate this into English is: "质数",is equal to "素数", so in Chinese they are both point to the prime numbers i think.

I am a Chinese now live in Shanghai, i am not quite into the math things, but what i read form wikipeida is telling me that they are euqal.

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I mean, what's the difference in their nuances? Or are they perfect synonyms? – Pacerier Apr 20 '13 at 4:20
@Pacerier 质数 and 素数 mean exactly the same thing, no differences at all, just like The Eearth, The Planet, and The Globe mean exactly the same thing, ie the planet we are living on. – 孤影萍踪 May 10 '13 at 18:12


In Chinese, 质数 and 素数 are interchangeable in any context; this is absolutely accurate.

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