Exclusive Or

Definition of Exclusive Or

Exclusive Or, also known as XOR, is a binary operation in digital electronics and computer science that compares two input values and returns a true result only if one, and only one, of the inputs is true, otherwise, it returns false. In Boolean Algebra, it is represented by the ⊕ symbol or sometimes by the ^ symbol. In binary arithmetic, XOR is used as a simple addition operation without carrying the overflow bit.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Exclusive Or” is:eks-KLOO-siv OR

Key Takeaways

  1. Exclusive Or, also known as XOR, is a logical operation that compares two input values and returns true if one, and only one, of the inputs is true, otherwise it returns false.
  2. XOR is a fundamental operation in digital electronics and cryptography, as it can be used to build complex circuits, error detection codes, and encryption algorithms.
  3. The XOR operation can be represented using various mathematical notations, such as ⊕ or + with a circle around it, and can be implemented using different types of logic gates, such as NAND, NOR, or a combination of AND, OR and NOT gates.

Importance of Exclusive Or

Exclusive Or, often abbreviated as XOR, is an important technology term because it holds great significance in various fields of digital electronics and computer science, particularly in scenarios related to data processing, information theory, cryptography, and error detection.

As a logical operation, XOR compares two binary inputs and generates an output of True (1) if the inputs differ and False (0) if they are the same.

This ability to distinguish between different combinations of input values enables improved data transmission, error detection, and encryption algorithms.

For instance, XOR is commonly used in Hamming code, a popular error-correction scheme for ensuring reliable data transmission, and in the creation of secure ciphertext in cryptographic algorithms like the one-time pad and stream cipher.

In summary, the XOR operation is crucial for enhancing the reliability, security, and efficiency of various digital systems.


Exclusive Or, often abbreviated as XOR, is a fundamental logical operation commonly used across various computing applications for its unique ability to manage and compare binary data effectively. The primary purpose of XOR is to perform a bitwise comparison of binary values or sequences, returning a new binary value or sequence that represents the differences between the original operands.

In other words, the XOR operation delivers a ‘1’ when the binary inputs being compared are different (i.e., one is ‘0’ and the other is ‘1’) and a ‘0’ when they are the same (both are ‘0’ or both are ‘1’). Due to its nature, XOR is particularly valuable in tasks that involve error detection, encryption, or data manipulation processes. One notable application of XOR is its critical role in error detection and correction mechanisms, such as parity bits and cyclic redundancy checks (CRC). These technologies rely on XOR to identify and rectify discrepancies in digital message transmissions, ensuring reliable and accurate communication between devices.

Furthermore, XOR’s unique properties have made it a key component of various cryptographic algorithms such as the famous Vernam cipher or in the more recent stream ciphers. In these systems, XOR enables the secure combination (or separation) of sensitive data with a secret key, protecting information from unauthorized access.

The versatility and simplicity of the Exclusive Or operation have cemented its position as an essential function in the digital realm, offering efficient solutions to a diverse range of technological challenges.

Examples of Exclusive Or

Exclusive Or (XOR) is a binary operation used in various technological applications. Here are three real-world examples demonstrating its application:

Error detection and correction: XOR is used in error detection and correction algorithms like the Hamming code. When transmitting data over a network, this coding system adds redundant bits to the original data via XOR operation. If any error occurs during transmission, the Hamming code can detect it (up to a certain level) and correct the data using XOR operation combined with parity bits.

Cryptography: XOR plays a crucial role in many cryptographic algorithms, like the one-time pad and stream ciphers. In one-time pad, the original data (plaintext) is XORed with a secret key (randomly generated) of the same length. The outcome is an encrypted message (ciphertext) that can be decrypted using the same key and XOR operation. This process ensures complete secrecy, as the ciphertext reveals no information about the plaintext or key without the proper key.

Image processing: XOR is applied in steganography, which involves hiding information within other data like images or audio files. Bitwise XOR operation can be used to hide a plaintext message within an image securely. This process involves XORing the message’s bits with specific bits of the image pixels, leaving the hidden message undetectable by the human eye. The message can be retrieved using XOR operation on the manipulated image pixels and the original image.

Exclusive Or – FAQ

What is Exclusive Or (XOR)?

Exclusive Or (XOR) is a logical operator that returns true if the inputs are different and false if the inputs are the same. In other words, it evaluates to true if one, and only one, of the inputs is true.

How is XOR represented in binary operations?

In binary operations, XOR is represented by the symbol ⊕. It operates on two binary digits (bits) and returns a 1 if the bits are different and a 0 if they are the same. For example, 0 ⊕ 0 = 0, 1 ⊕ 0 = 1, 0 ⊕ 1 = 1, and 1 ⊕ 1 = 0.

What are some practical applications of XOR?

XOR has several practical applications in various fields, including cryptography, error detection and correction, and digital logic design. It is used in the creation of checksum algorithms, parity bits, and encryption algorithms such as the Vernam cipher.

How does XOR work in a programming language?

In most programming languages, XOR is represented by the caret symbol (^). The operation is performed bitwise on integers, meaning it is applied individually to each corresponding pair of bits in the input numbers. For example, in Python, the expression 5 ^ 3 evaluates to 6, because the binary representation of 5 is 101, the binary representation of 3 is 011, and the result of XOR applied to each pair of bits is 110, which is the binary representation of 6.

Can XOR be used with more than two inputs?

Yes, XOR can be extended to more than two inputs. In such cases, it is true if an odd number of inputs are true, and false otherwise. For example, in a three-input XOR, the output is true if exactly one or all three inputs are true, and false if zero or two inputs are true.

Related Technology Terms

  • Bitwise operation
  • Logical connective
  • Boolean algebra
  • Truth table
  • XOR gate

Sources for More Information


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