I'm looking for one of those +? shortcuts to type a minus sign (−) from the keyboard, without touching the mouse.

I'm looking for the minus sign (−). It should have the same width as a plus sign (+), and its Unicode code point is 8722 (x2212 in hexadecimal).

What I'm not looking for:

  • The hyphen minus (-), already on the keyboard, is not the typographically correct symbol for subtraction.
  • The em dash (—, ++-) is used to signify a break in thought and is far too wide to be confused for a minus sign.
  • The en dash (–, +-) is used for ranges of values or relationships and connections and shouldn't be used in place of a minus sign.
  • 3
    Does "Unicode hex input" as described here (apple.stackexchange.com/a/4077/1227) help? (didn't know there were so many minus signs :)
    – LudoMC
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 17:15
  • Why, yes it does. =)
    – Chris Calo
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 5:10
  • 8
    My god... I feel like I've been using the wrong characters my whole life. Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 16:46
  • 1
    But... programming languages do not approve... they use hyphens as minus signs.
    – Bradman175
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 5:16
  • 1
    Indeed, @Bradman175. But I don't blame them; the correct character isn't even on the keyboard!
    – Chris Calo
    Commented Jun 19, 2016 at 17:42

10 Answers 10


Here's a really fast way to insert a minus sign (or any other sign for that matter).

Use Emoji & Symbols

You can get to Emoji & Symbols by going to the Edit Menu on the Top Menu Bar on your screen

Top Menu Bar; Emoji & Symbols

But, the easier way is to invoke the keyboard shortcut by typing ^ Control⌘ CommandSpace

You will then be presented with the Emoji & Symbols search box; just type "minus" and you will be presented with all the options for "minus signs"

enter image description here

  • 1
    Excellent answer. Accepted just now. This is now the best method available with the most recent MacOS update because: (1) it can be called from any text input, (2) it now displays anchored to the input instead of in a random location, (3) you can immediately type to search and use the arrow keys, and (5) you don't need to ⌘V to enter the chosen character, you just press Enter. The only downside is that the character name isn't displayed anywhere, but that's pretty minor.
    – Chris Calo
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 0:14
  • Shouldn't that be ctrl + command + space instead of shift + command + space? Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 9:13
  • 1
    @Chris Calo, You said "The only downside is that the character name isn't displayed anywhere, but that's pretty minor.", when you press ^⌘Space the default window, as shown in Allan's answer can be expanded by clicking the symbol in the upper right hand corner and it expands to the once normal (Special) Characters app as in e.g. OS X 10.8, where you can see the Name and can right-click for Get Character Info. In its default form if you mouse-over the character long enough the Name is shown in a popup window. Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 14:31
  • Seeing a dozen or so different characters rather than the minus sign is a big issue. What I'm (like OP) looking for is a combo-keystroke that I can type (frequently when I need minus, not hyphen or some kind of dash.) Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 9:33

There's a way of entering Unicode values on the Mac: go to System Preferences, then Language & Text. In the Input Sources tab, scroll to Unicode Hex Input, check it.

Select Unicode Hex Input from the list of Input Sources in the Language & Text preference pane.

Then if you switch to Unicode Hex Input in the Mac menu bar, you can press
+2212 for the minus sign. Here's what the input switcher looks like:

Input switcher in the Mac menu bar.

If you want to switch between your input and hex input via keyboard, you have to click "Keyboard Shortcuts..." in the same window, disable "Show Spotlight Window" in the Spotlight section, and maybe activate "Select next source in Input Menu". ++space will then swap input language. (You can check this in the menu bar.)

(Alternatively, there's the low-mouse-use option via Special Characters:
Go to Edit > Special Characters...; in there, select the Unicode tab, and Code tables (or however it's called in English) at the top.
Next, scroll down the list until you see 00002200 in the Unicode column. Click it. Down below, look for the row that begins with 2210, and it should be the 3rd char.)

  • 1
    I would suggest a language-switch keyboard shortcut that doesn't interfere with spotlight. I use alt+cmd+L personally. Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 10:33

If you need to do this a lot, you might get ukelele and use it to create your own keyboard layout. That's what I did, and now I can type all kinds of mathematical symbols with ease, such as lots of integral signs (∫, ∬, ∭, ∮), ∅, ∇, ∀, ∃, ∑, ∏, ⊂, ⊆, ⊃, ⊇, not to mention arrows: →, ←, ↔, ↓, ↑ and so on. (However, you probably don't want my keyboard layout, as it is based on the Norwegian keyboard.) I admit it took me a while to put it together, but I feel it was worth the effort. Your mileage may vary, however.

  • Norwegian keyboard layouts are the best ;)
    – Emil
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 17:17

I found a new, better solution, but it's also not free. You can use the popular Mac productivity utility Alfred with a workflow extension to search for and copy any unicode character.

It's the fastest solution I've found to find and insert any unicode character out there. You simply press a keyboard command to launch the Alfred prompt, type in keyword and search term, use the up/down arrows to highlight the result you want, and then press Enter to copy it to the clipboard. Here's what it looks like:

enter image description here


Here are the steps to get this set up:

  1. First, install Alfred from alfredapp.com.
  2. Next, to enable workflows, you'll have to buy the Alfred Powerpack upgrade. (If all you want is to look up Unicode characters, buying the Powerpack probably isn't worth the cost. But it does come with lots of helpful enhancements.)
  3. Then go to the unicode-symbols-search repo on Github and download the ZIP.
  4. Open the ZIP and the contained folder to find a file named Symbols Search.alfredworkflow. Open that file and Alfred should take over and install it.

Optional stuff

I make two customizations: I change the keyword for this workflow and I turn off automatic pasting.

The default keyword is uss, which means nothing to me. I change it to char.

  1. First, press the keyboard shortcut to show the Alfred prompt and then press Cmd , to open preferences.
  2. Navigate to the Workflows section and you should see Symbols Search. Double-click the left box labeled Script Filter to open its configuration.
  3. Change the keyword to char (or whatever else you want).

enter image description here

I also don't like that the default is to immediately paste the character when you press Enter. To turn that off:

  1. As above, go to Alfred Preferences > Workflows > Symbols Search.
  2. Double-click the right box labeled Copy to Clipboard to open its configuration.
  3. Uncheck the checkbox labeled Automatically paste to from most app.

enter image description here

Use it

Now let's actually use it!

  1. Use the keyboard shortcut to show the Alfred prompt. (Alfred Preferences > General)
  2. Type char minus. (Or replace char whatever keyword you chose for Symbols Search workflow.)
  3. Press the down arrow until minus sign is highlighted.
  4. Press Enter to copy to the clipboard.
  5. Go back to whatever app you want to paste the minus sign into and do it.
  6. Declare victory.

The first time you do this isn't fast. Every other time is.


One option would be to create ~/Library/KeyBindings/ and save an old-style property list like this as DefaultKeyBinding.dict:

    "~M" = (insertText:, "−"); // opt-shift-m
  • How do you create a .dict file? Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 21:00

It's not free, and you have to use the mouse briefly, but the fastest way to do this is with an app named Characters from the Mac App Store for $2.99. You click the icon in the Mac menu bar, search for a character, and use the arrows and Enter to copy it to the clipboard.

Screenshot of the Characters app for Mac


In word, you can create a new shortcut:

  1. Click Insert --> Symbol --> Advanced Symbol. That will open the Symbol browser.
  2. In the lower left side, click the "Autocorrect" button, which will open the autocorrect window.
  3. Under "Math Autocorrect" tab, activate "Use Math AutoCorrect rules outside of math regions"
  4. In the "Replace" box, type the code you want to use. (I have it set to "-")
  5. In the "With" box, enter the "minus" symbol. I had to "cut-and-paste" it from a text document.
  6. Click OK.

Done. Next time you type - it will be replaced by the minus sign.

Hope it helps!

  • This can also be done automagically in all OS X apps via System Prefrences -> Language & Text -> Text under "symbol and text substitution" :)
    – Emil
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 17:19
  • This question isn't about Microsoft Word. It's about typing a minus sign anywhere in Mac OS X.
    – Chris Calo
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 18:46
  • 1
    Just noticed @emil's comment. That would be a better answer.
    – Chris Calo
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 18:52

You can set up just a regular autocorrect shortcut for this as well, which I found much simpler.

First, insert a proper minus sign into a Word document somewhere using the "Insert symbol" function. Highlight that minus sign.

Go to "Tools" --> "Autocorrect". The proper minus sign you have highlighted will show up in the "replace with" field on the right; all you have to do now is type whatever shortcut you want to use on the left. I like to use letter combinations that won't show up in other contexts, but are somehow reminiscent of what I actually want to type; I chose "mnsgn" in this case.

Click "add" and then "OK". Now, whenever you type whatever your shortcut is, it will be autocorrected to a minus sign.

  • But that is ONLY for MS Word, nothing else. Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 18:46

I don't know shortcut for actual minus sign in macOS. However, you can insert one using-

  1. Go to System Preferences --> Keyboard and (make sure you are on tab 'keyboard') check mark option of "Show Keyboard, Emoji, and Symbol viewers in menu bar" this will put an icon on your mac menu bar right side.enter image description here

  2. Click on that icon, will open a menu.

  3. Choose "Show Emoji & Symbols". It will open a dialog box.

  4. Choose "Math Symbols". You can insert the minus sign from here as shown below.enter image description here

Hope that helps!


On my Mac, running OS X El Capitan, I can get a minus sign by invoking the special characters table: control+command+space. I use minus signs pretty often, so it's listed there as frequently used. Just click it or press enter if it's already highlighted, and in it goes.

If you need to enter several minus signs in a text, you can copy it to the clipboard and then paste it back freely until you need the clipboard for something else.

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