Mathematica does not seem to treat variables as a unit. Consider the following:

rule = a -> Function[{x}, OverBar[a][x]]
test = a[x] /. rule;
test /. rule

It seems to apply the rule again on the last line, which of course is not what I want (in the sense that a and OverBar[a] are supposed to be different things). I tried to use the Notation package but was rather unsuccessful. Is there a way to make this work?


1 Answer 1


You want to replace a with Overbar[a], but only if it isn't already inside Overbar. So make Overbar[a]->Overbar[a] your first replacement rule, and it will be protected from further replacements:

rules = {OverBar[a] -> OverBar[a], a -> OverBar[a]};
test = a[x] /. rules
(* OverBar[a] *)

test /. rules
(* Overbar[a] *)
  • $\begingroup$ Very nice thank you. It seems that putting the Overbar[a]->Overbar[a] replacement last actually also work. I cannot understand what happens internally, however? $\endgroup$
    – Patrick.B
    Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 15:59

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