# Greatest common divisor

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In mathematics, the greatest common divisor (gcd), also known as the greatest common denominator, greatest common factor (gcf), or highest common factor (hcf), of two or more non-zero integers, is the largest positive integer that divides the numbers without a remainder. For example, the GCD of 8 and 12 is 4.

This notion can be extended to polynomials, see greatest common divisor of two polynomials.

## Contents

### Overview

The greatest common divisor is useful for reducing fractions to be in lowest terms. For example, gcd(42, 56) = 14, therefore,

The greatest common divisor of a and b is written as gcd(ab), or sometimes simply as (ab). For example, gcd(12, 18) = 6, gcd(−4, 14) = 2. Two numbers are called coprime or relatively prime if their greatest common divisor equals 1. For example, 9 and 28 are relatively prime.

### Using prime factorizations

Greatest common divisors can in principle be computed by determining the prime factorizations of the two numbers and comparing factors, as in the following example: to compute gcd(18, 84), we find the prime factorizations 18 = 2 · 32 and 84 = 22 · 3 · 7 and notice that the "overlap" of the two expressions is 2 · 3; so gcd(18, 84) = 6. In practice, this method is only feasible for small numbers; computing prime factorizations in general takes far too long.

Here is another concrete example, illustrated by a Venn diagram. Suppose it is desired to find the greatest common divisor of 48 and 180. First, find the prime factorizations of the two numbers:

What they share in common is two "2"s and a "3":

### Using Euclid's algorithm

A much more efficient method is the Euclidean algorithm, which uses the division algorithm in combination with the observation that the gcd of two numbers also divides their difference: divide 48 by 18 to get a quotient of 2 and a remainder of 12. Then divide 18 by 12 to get a quotient of 1 and a remainder of 6. Then divide 12 by 6 to get a remainder of 0, which means that 6 is the gcd. Formally, it can be described as: