(definition)

**Definition:**
A function where f(A, f(B, C)) = f(f(A, B), C).

**See also**
*commutative*.

*Note:
Multiplication is associative, e.g., 2 × (3 × 4) = (2 × 3) × 4, and commutative, e.g., 2 × 3 = 3 × 2. Subtraction is neither associative, e.g., 2 - (3 - 4) ≠ (2 - 3) - 4, nor commutative, e.g., 2 - 3 ≠ 3 - 2. Because of rounding floating point addition on a computer is not associative, e.g., (1000000 + .00001) + .00001 ≠ 1000000 + (.00001 + .00001) (actual values depend on the details of the computer addition), but is commutative, e.g., 1000000 + .00001 = .00001 + 1000000. Cartesian product is associative, e.g., {1, 2} × ({a, b} × {X, Y}) = ({1, 2} × {a, b}) × {X, Y}, but is not commutative, e.g., {1, 2} × {a, b} ≠ {a, b} × {1, 2}.*

Author: PEB

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Entry modified 14 August 2008.

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Cite this as:

Paul E. Black, "associative", in
*Dictionary of Algorithms and Data Structures* [online], Paul E. Black, ed. 14 August 2008. (accessed TODAY)
Available from: https://www.nist.gov/dads/HTML/associative.html