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In geometry, the notion of line or straight line was introduced by ancient mathematicians to represent straight objects (i.e., having no
curvature In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). ...

curvature
) with negligible width and depth. Lines are an idealization of such objects, which are often described in terms of two
points Point or points may refer to: Places * Point, Lewis, a peninsula in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland * Point, Texas, a city in Rains County, Texas, United States * Point, the NE tip and a ferry terminal of Lismore, Scotland, Lismore, Inner Hebrides, ...
(e.g., \overleftrightarrow) or referred to using a single letter (e.g., \ell). Until the 17th century, lines were defined as the " ..first species of quantity, which has only one dimension, namely length, without any width nor depth, and is nothing else than the flow or run of the point which ..will leave from its imaginary moving some vestige in length, exempt of any width. ..The straight line is that which is equally extended between its points."
Euclid Euclid (; grc-gre, Wikt:Εὐκλείδης, Εὐκλείδης ; 300 BC), sometimes called Euclid of Alexandria to distinguish him from Euclid of Megara, was a Greek mathematics, Greek mathematician, often referred to as the "founder of ge ...

Euclid
described a line as "breadthless length" which "lies equally with respect to the points on itself"; he introduced several
postulate An axiom, postulate or assumption is a statement that is taken to be truth, true, to serve as a premise or starting point for further reasoning and arguments. The word comes from the Greek ''axíōma'' () 'that which is thought worthy or fit' or ...
s as basic unprovable properties from which he constructed all of geometry, which is now called
Euclidean geometry Euclidean geometry is a mathematical system attributed to Alexandrian Greek mathematics , Greek mathematician Euclid, which he described in his textbook on geometry: the ''Euclid's Elements, Elements''. Euclid's method consists in assuming a sma ...
to avoid confusion with other geometries which have been introduced since the end of the 19th century (such as non-Euclidean, projective and
affine geometry In mathematics, affine geometry is what remains of Euclidean geometry when not using (mathematicians often say "when forgetting") the metric space, metric notions of distance and angle. As the notion of ''parallel lines'' is one of the main prop ...
). In modern mathematics, given the multitude of geometries, the concept of a line is closely tied to the way the geometry is described. For instance, in
analytic geometry In classical mathematics, analytic geometry, also known as coordinate geometry or Cartesian geometry, is the study of geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measur ...
, a line in the plane is often defined as the set of points whose coordinates satisfy a given
linear equation In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

linear equation
, but in a more abstract setting, such as
incidence geometry Incidence may refer to: Economics * Benefit incidence, the availability of a benefit * Expenditure incidence, the effect of government expenditure upon the distribution of private incomes * Fiscal incidence, the economic impact of government tax ...
, a line may be an independent object, distinct from the set of points which lie on it. When a geometry is described by a set of
axiom An axiom, postulate or assumption is a statement that is taken to be , to serve as a or starting point for further reasoning and arguments. The word comes from the Greek ''axíōma'' () 'that which is thought worthy or fit' or 'that which comm ...

axiom
s, the notion of a line is usually left undefined (a so-called
primitive Primitive may refer to: Mathematics * Primitive element (field theory) * Primitive element (finite field) * Primitive cell (crystallography) * Primitive notion, axiomatic systems * Primitive polynomial (disambiguation), one of two concepts * Primit ...
object). The properties of lines are then determined by the axioms which refer to them. One advantage to this approach is the flexibility it gives to users of the geometry. Thus in
differential geometry Differential geometry is a Mathematics, mathematical discipline that studies the geometry of smooth shapes and smooth spaces, otherwise known as smooth manifolds, using the techniques of differential calculus, integral calculus, linear algebra a ...
, a line may be interpreted as a
geodesic In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measurement") is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is concerned with properties of space t ...

geodesic
(shortest path between points), while in some projective geometries, a line is a 2-dimensional vector space (all linear combinations of two independent vectors). This flexibility also extends beyond mathematics and, for example, permits physicists to think of the path of a light ray as being a line.


Definitions versus descriptions

All definitions are ultimately
circular Circular may refer to: * The shape of a circle A circle is a shape consisting of all point (geometry), points in a plane (mathematics), plane that are at a given distance from a given point, the Centre (geometry), centre; equivalently it is ...
in nature, since they depend on concepts which must themselves have definitions, a dependence which cannot be continued indefinitely without returning to the starting point. To avoid this vicious circle, certain concepts must be taken as
primitive Primitive may refer to: Mathematics * Primitive element (field theory) * Primitive element (finite field) * Primitive cell (crystallography) * Primitive notion, axiomatic systems * Primitive polynomial (disambiguation), one of two concepts * Primit ...
concepts; terms which are given no definition. In geometry, it is frequently the case that the concept of line is taken as a primitive. In those situations where a line is a defined concept, as in
coordinate geometry In classical mathematics, analytic geometry, also known as coordinate geometry or Cartesian geometry, is the study of geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measur ...
, some other fundamental ideas are taken as primitives. When the line concept is a primitive, the behaviour and properties of lines are dictated by the
axiom An axiom, postulate or assumption is a statement that is taken to be , to serve as a or starting point for further reasoning and arguments. The word comes from the Greek ''axíōma'' () 'that which is thought worthy or fit' or 'that which comm ...

axiom
s which they must satisfy. In a non-axiomatic or simplified axiomatic treatment of geometry, the concept of a primitive notion may be too abstract to be dealt with. In this circumstance, it is possible to provide a ''description'' or ''mental image'' of a primitive notion, to give a foundation to build the notion on which would formally be based on the (unstated) axioms. Descriptions of this type may be referred to, by some authors, as definitions in this informal style of presentation. These are not true definitions, and could not be used in formal proofs of statements. The "definition" of line in
Euclid's Elements The ''Elements'' ( grc, Στοιχεῖα ''Stoikheîa'') is a mathematical Mathematics (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, ...
falls into this category. Even in the case where a specific geometry is being considered (for example,
Euclidean geometry Euclidean geometry is a mathematical system attributed to Alexandrian Greek mathematics , Greek mathematician Euclid, which he described in his textbook on geometry: the ''Euclid's Elements, Elements''. Euclid's method consists in assuming a sma ...
), there is no generally accepted agreement among authors as to what an informal description of a line should be when the subject is not being treated formally.


In Euclidean geometry

When geometry was first formalised by
Euclid Euclid (; grc-gre, Wikt:Εὐκλείδης, Εὐκλείδης ; 300 BC), sometimes called Euclid of Alexandria to distinguish him from Euclid of Megara, was a Greek mathematics, Greek mathematician, often referred to as the "founder of ge ...

Euclid
in the '' Elements'', he defined a general line (straight or curved) to be "breadthless length" with a straight line being a line "which lies evenly with the points on itself". These definitions serve little purpose, since they use terms which are not by themselves defined. In fact, Euclid himself did not use these definitions in this work, and probably included them just to make it clear to the reader what was being discussed. In modern geometry, a line is simply taken as an undefined object with properties given by
axiom An axiom, postulate or assumption is a statement that is taken to be , to serve as a or starting point for further reasoning and arguments. The word comes from the Greek ''axíōma'' () 'that which is thought worthy or fit' or 'that which comm ...

axiom
s, but is sometimes defined as a set of points obeying a linear relationship when some other fundamental concept is left undefined. In an
axiom An axiom, postulate or assumption is a statement that is taken to be , to serve as a or starting point for further reasoning and arguments. The word comes from the Greek ''axíōma'' () 'that which is thought worthy or fit' or 'that which comm ...

axiom
atic formulation of Euclidean geometry, such as that of
Hilbert David Hilbert (; ; 23 January 1862 – 14 February 1943) was a German mathematician and one of the most influential mathematicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Hilbert discovered and developed a broad range of fundamental ideas in man ...
(Euclid's original axioms contained various flaws which have been corrected by modern mathematicians), a line is stated to have certain properties which relate it to other lines and
points Point or points may refer to: Places * Point, Lewis, a peninsula in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland * Point, Texas, a city in Rains County, Texas, United States * Point, the NE tip and a ferry terminal of Lismore, Scotland, Lismore, Inner Hebrides, ...
. For example, for any two distinct points, there is a unique line containing them, and any two distinct lines intersect in at most one point. In two
dimension In physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in other words, to the regular s ...

dimension
s (i.e., the Euclidean
plane Plane or planes may refer to: * Airplane An airplane or aeroplane (informally plane) is a fixed-wing aircraft A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine Early flying machines include all forms of aircraft studied ...
), two lines which do not intersect are called
parallel Parallel may refer to: Computing * Parallel algorithm In computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, algorithms and the architectures of its computation as well as practical techniques for their a ...
. In higher dimensions, two lines that do not intersect are parallel if they are contained in a
plane Plane or planes may refer to: * Airplane An airplane or aeroplane (informally plane) is a fixed-wing aircraft A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine Early flying machines include all forms of aircraft studied ...
, or skew if they are not. Any collection of finitely many lines partitions the plane into
convex polygon In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measurement") is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is concerned with properties of space th ...
s (possibly unbounded); this partition is known as an
arrangement of lines In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measurement") is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is concerned with properties of space that ...
.


In Cartesian coordinates

Lines in a
Cartesian plane A Cartesian coordinate system (, ) in a plane Plane or planes may refer to: * Airplane or aeroplane or informally plane, a powered, fixed-wing aircraft Arts, entertainment and media *Plane (Dungeons & Dragons), Plane (''Dungeons & Dragons'') ...

Cartesian plane
or, more generally, in
affine coordinates In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). ...
, are characterized by
linear equation In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

linear equation
s. More precisely, every line L (including vertical lines) is the set of all points whose
coordinates In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measurement") is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is concerned with properties of space t ...

coordinates
(''x'', ''y'') satisfy a
linear equation In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

linear equation
; that is, :L=\, where ''a'', ''b'' and ''c'' are fixed
real number In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and their changes ( and ). There is no g ...
s (called
coefficient In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...
s) such that ''a'' and ''b'' are not both zero. Using this form, vertical lines correspond to equations with ''b'' = 0. One can further suppose either or , by dividing everything by if it is not zero. There are many variant ways to write the equation of a line which can all be converted from one to another by algebraic manipulation. The above form is sometimes called the ''standard form''. If the constant term is put on the left, the equation becomes :ax+by-c=0, and this is sometimes called the ''general form'' of the equation. However, this terminology is not universally accepted, and many authors do not distinguish these two forms. These forms (see
Linear equation In mathematics, a linear equation is an equation that may be put in the form :a_1x_1+\cdots +a_nx_n+b=0, where x_1, \ldots, x_n are the variable (mathematics), variables (or unknown (mathematics), unknowns), and b, a_1, \ldots, a_n are the coeffi ...

Linear equation
for other forms) are generally named by the type of information (data) about the line that is needed to write down the form. Some of the important data of a line is its slope, x-intercept, known points on the line and y-intercept. The equation of the line passing through two different points P_0( x_0, y_0 ) and P_1(x_1, y_1) may be written as :(y - y_0)(x_1 - x_0) = (y_1 - y_0)(x - x_0). If ''x0'' ≠ ''x1'', this equation may be rewritten as :y=(x-x_0)\,\frac+y_0 or :y=x\,\frac+\frac\,.


Parametric equations

Parametric equation In mathematics, a parametric equation defines a group of quantities as Function (mathematics), functions of one or more independent variables called parameters. Parametric equations are commonly used to express the coordinates of the points that m ...
s are also used to specify lines, particularly in those in
three dimensions Three-dimensional space (also: 3-space or, rarely, tri-dimensional space) is a geometric setting in which three values (called parameter A parameter (from the Ancient Greek language, Ancient Greek wikt:παρά#Ancient Greek, παρά, ''par ...
or more because in more than two dimensions lines ''cannot'' be described by a single linear equation. In three dimensions lines are frequently described by parametric equations: : x = x_0 + at : y = y_0 + bt : z = z_0 + ct where: : ''x'', ''y'', and ''z'' are all functions of the independent variable ''t'' which ranges over the real numbers. : (''x''0, ''y''0, ''z''0) is any point on the line. : ''a'', ''b'', and ''c'' are related to the slope of the line, such that the direction
vector Vector may refer to: Biology *Vector (epidemiology) In epidemiology Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the distribution (who, when, and where), patterns and risk factor, determinants of health and disease conditions in defined pop ...
(''a'', ''b'', ''c'') is parallel to the line. Parametric equations for lines in higher dimensions are similar in that they are based on the specification of one point on the line and a direction vector. As a note, lines in three dimensions may also be described as the simultaneous solutions of two
linear equation In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

linear equation
s : a_1x+b_1y+c_1z-d_1=0 : a_2x+b_2y+c_2z-d_2=0 such that (a_1,b_1,c_1) and (a_2,b_2,c_2) are not proportional (the relations a_1=ta_2, b_1=tb_2, c_1=tc_2 imply t = 0). This follows since in three dimensions a single linear equation typically describes a
plane Plane or planes may refer to: * Airplane An airplane or aeroplane (informally plane) is a fixed-wing aircraft A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine Early flying machines include all forms of aircraft studied ...
and a line is what is common to two distinct intersecting planes.


Slope-intercept form

In
two dimensions 300px, Bi-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system Two-dimensional space (also known as bi-dimensional space) is a geometric setting in which two values (called parameter A parameter (from the Ancient Greek language, Ancient Greek wikt:παρ ...
, the equation for non-vertical lines is often given in the '' slope-intercept form'': : y = mx + b where: : ''m'' is the
slope In mathematics, the slope or gradient of a line Line, lines, The Line, or LINE may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films * ''Lines'' (film), a 2016 Greek film * ''The Line'' (2017 film) * ''The Line'' (2009 film) * ''The Line'', ...

slope
or
gradient In vector calculus Vector calculus, or vector analysis, is concerned with differentiation Differentiation may refer to: Business * Differentiation (economics), the process of making a product different from other similar products * Prod ...

gradient
of the line. : ''b'' is the
y-intercept Image:Y-intercept.svg, 300px, Graph ''y''=''ƒ''(''x'') with the ''x''-axis as the horizontal axis and the ''y''-axis as the vertical axis. The ''y''-intercept of ''ƒ''(''x'') is indicated by the red dot at (''x''=0, ''y''=1). In analytic ...

y-intercept
of the line. : ''x'' is the
independent variable Dependent and Independent variables are variables in mathematical modeling A mathematical model is a description of a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to f ...
of the function ''y'' = ''f''(''x''). The slope of the line through points A(x_a, y_a) and B(x_b, y_b), when x_a \neq x_b, is given by m = (y_b - y_a)/(x_b - x_a) and the equation of this line can be written y = m (x - x_a) + y_a.


Normal form

The ''normal form'' (also called the ''Hesse normal form'', after the German mathematician Ludwig Otto Hesse), is based on the '' normal segment'' for a given line, which is defined to be the line segment drawn from the
origin Origin(s) or The Origin may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Comics and manga * Origin (comics), ''Origin'' (comics), a Wolverine comic book mini-series published by Marvel Comics in 2002 * The Origin (Buffy comic), ''The Origin'' (Bu ...
perpendicular to the line. This segment joins the origin with the closest point on the line to the origin. The normal form of the equation of a straight line on the plane is given by: :: x \cos \varphi + y \sin \varphi - p = 0 , where \varphi is the angle of inclination of the normal segment (the oriented angle from the unit vector of the -axis to this segment), and is the (positive) length of the normal segment. The normal form can be derived from the standard form ax+by=c by dividing all of the coefficients by ::\frac\sqrt. Unlike the slope-intercept and intercept forms, this form can represent any line but also requires only two finite parameters, \varphi and , to be specified. If , then \varphi is uniquely defined modulo . On the other hand, if the line is through the origin (), one drops the term to compute \sin\varphi and \cos\varphi, and it follows that \varphi is only defined modulo .


In polar coordinates

In a
Cartesian plane A Cartesian coordinate system (, ) in a plane Plane or planes may refer to: * Airplane or aeroplane or informally plane, a powered, fixed-wing aircraft Arts, entertainment and media *Plane (Dungeons & Dragons), Plane (''Dungeons & Dragons'') ...

Cartesian plane
,
polar coordinates In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

polar coordinates
are related to
Cartesian coordinates A Cartesian coordinate system (, ) in a plane Plane or planes may refer to: * Airplane or aeroplane or informally plane, a powered, fixed-wing aircraft Arts, entertainment and media *Plane (Dungeons & Dragons), Plane (''Dungeons & Dragons'') ...

Cartesian coordinates
by the equations :x=r\cos\theta, \quad y=r\sin\theta. In polar coordinates, the equation of a line not passing through the
origin Origin(s) or The Origin may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Comics and manga * Origin (comics), ''Origin'' (comics), a Wolverine comic book mini-series published by Marvel Comics in 2002 * The Origin (Buffy comic), ''The Origin'' (Bu ...
—the point with coordinates —can be written :r=\frac p , with and \varphi-\pi/2 < \theta < \varphi + \pi/2. Here, is the (positive) length of the
line segment In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ' "earth", ' "measurement") is, with , one of the oldest branches of . It is concerned with properties of space that are related with distance, shape, size, and relative position ...

line segment
perpendicular to the line and delimited by the origin and the line, and \varphi is the (oriented) angle from the -axis to this segment. It may be useful to express the equation in terms of the angle \alpha=\varphi+\pi/2 between the -axis and the line. In this case, the equation becomes :r=\frac p , with and 0 < \theta < \alpha + \pi. These equations can be derived from the normal form of the line equation by setting x=r\cos\theta, and y=r\sin\theta, and then applying the angle difference identity for sine or cosine. These equations can also be proven
geometrically
geometrically
by applying right triangle definitions of sine and cosine to the
right triangle A right triangle (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American Eng ...

right triangle
that has a point of the line and the origin as vertices, and the line and its perpendicular through the origin as sides. The previous forms do not apply for a line passing through the origin, but a simpler formula can be written: the polar coordinates (r, \theta) of the points of a line passing through the origin and making an angle of \alpha with the -axis, are the pairs (r, \theta) such that :r\ge 0,\qquad \text \quad \theta=\alpha \quad\text\quad \theta=\alpha +\pi.


As a vector equation

The vector equation of the line through points A and B is given by \mathbf = \mathbf + \lambda\, \mathbf (where λ is a
scalar Scalar may refer to: *Scalar (mathematics), an element of a field, which is used to define a vector space, usually the field of real numbers *Scalar (physics), a physical quantity that can be described by a single element of a number field such as ...
). If a is vector OA and b is vector OB, then the equation of the line can be written: \mathbf = \mathbf + \lambda (\mathbf - \mathbf). A ray starting at point ''A'' is described by limiting λ. One ray is obtained if λ ≥ 0, and the opposite ray comes from λ ≤ 0.


In higher dimensions

In
three-dimensional space Three-dimensional space (also: 3-space or, rarely, tri-dimensional space) is a geometric setting in which three values (called parameters) are required to determine the position of an element (i.e., point). This is the informal meaning of the ...
, a first degree equation in the variables ''x'', ''y'', and ''z'' defines a plane, so two such equations, provided the planes they give rise to are not parallel, define a line which is the intersection of the planes. More generally, in ''n''-dimensional space ''n''−1 first-degree equations in the ''n''
coordinate In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measurement") is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is concerned with properties of space t ...
variables define a line under suitable conditions. In more general
Euclidean space Euclidean space is the fundamental space of classical geometry. Originally, it was the three-dimensional space of Euclidean geometry, but in modern mathematics there are Euclidean spaces of any nonnegative integer dimension (mathematics), dimens ...
, R''n'' (and analogously in every other
affine space In mathematics, an affine space is a geometric Structure (mathematics), structure that generalizes some of the properties of Euclidean spaces in such a way that these are independent of the concepts of distance and measure of angles, keeping on ...
), the line ''L'' passing through two different points ''a'' and ''b'' (considered as vectors) is the subset :L = \ The direction of the line is from ''a'' (''t'' = 0) to ''b'' (''t'' = 1), or in other words, in the direction of the vector ''b'' − ''a''. Different choices of ''a'' and ''b'' can yield the same line.


Collinear points

Three points are said to be ''collinear'' if they lie on the same line. Three points '' usually'' determine a
plane Plane or planes may refer to: * Airplane An airplane or aeroplane (informally plane) is a fixed-wing aircraft A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine Early flying machines include all forms of aircraft studied ...
, but in the case of three collinear points this does ''not'' happen. In
affine coordinates In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). ...
, in ''n''-dimensional space the points ''X'' = (''x''1, ''x''2, ..., ''x''''n''), ''Y'' = (''y''1, ''y''2, ..., ''y''''n''), and ''Z'' = (''z''1, ''z''2, ..., ''z''''n'') are collinear if the
matrix Matrix or MATRIX may refer to: Science and mathematics * Matrix (mathematics), a rectangular array of numbers, symbols, or expressions * Matrix (logic), part of a formula in prenex normal form * Matrix (biology), the material in between a eukaryoti ...
:\begin 1 & x_1 & x_2 & \dots & x_n \\ 1 & y_1 & y_2 & \dots & y_n \\ 1 & z_1 & z_2 & \dots & z_n \end has a
rank Rank is the relative position, value, worth, complexity, power, importance, authority, level, etc. of a person or object within a ranking A ranking is a relationship between a set of items such that, for any two items, the first is either "rank ...
less than 3. In particular, for three points in the plane (''n'' = 2), the above matrix is square and the points are collinear if and only if its
determinant In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and t ...

determinant
is zero. Equivalently for three points in a plane, the points are collinear if and only if the slope between one pair of points equals the slope between any other pair of points (in which case the slope between the remaining pair of points will equal the other slopes). By extension, ''k'' points in a plane are collinear if and only if any (''k''–1) pairs of points have the same pairwise slopes. In
Euclidean geometry Euclidean geometry is a mathematical system attributed to Alexandrian Greek mathematics , Greek mathematician Euclid, which he described in his textbook on geometry: the ''Euclid's Elements, Elements''. Euclid's method consists in assuming a sma ...
, the
Euclidean distance In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). ...
''d''(''a'',''b'') between two points ''a'' and ''b'' may be used to express the collinearity between three points by: :The points ''a'', ''b'' and ''c'' are collinear if and only if ''d''(''x'',''a'') = ''d''(''c'',''a'') and ''d''(''x'',''b'') = ''d''(''c'',''b'') implies ''x'' = ''c''. However, there are other notions of distance (such as the
Manhattan distance A taxicab geometry is a form of geometry in which the usual distance function or Metric (mathematics), metric of Euclidean geometry is replaced by a new metric in which the distance between two points is the sum of the absolute differences of thei ...

Manhattan distance
) for which this property is not true. In the geometries where the concept of a line is a primitive notion, as may be the case in some synthetic geometries, other methods of determining collinearity are needed.


Types of lines

In a sense, all lines in Euclidean geometry are equal, in that, without coordinates, one can not tell them apart from one another. However, lines may play special roles with respect to other objects in the geometry and be divided into types according to that relationship. For instance, with respect to a
conic In mathematics, a conic section (or simply conic) is a curve obtained as the intersection of the Conical surface, surface of a cone (geometry), cone with a plane (mathematics), plane. The three types of conic section are the hyperbola, the par ...
(a
circle A circle is a shape A shape or figure is the form of an object or its external boundary, outline, or external surface File:Water droplet lying on a damask.jpg, Water droplet lying on a damask. Surface tension is high enough to preven ...

circle
,
ellipse In , an ellipse is a surrounding two , such that for all points on the curve, the sum of the two distances to the focal points is a constant. As such, it generalizes a , which is the special type of ellipse in which the two focal points are t ...

ellipse
,
parabola In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and their changes ( and ). There is no ...

parabola
, or
hyperbola In mathematics, a hyperbola () (adjective form hyperbolic, ) (plural ''hyperbolas'', or ''hyperbolae'' ()) is a type of smooth function, smooth plane curve, curve lying in a plane, defined by its geometric properties or by equations for which it ...

hyperbola
), lines can be: *
tangent line In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measurement") is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is concerned with properties of space ...

tangent line
s, which touch the conic at a single point; *
secant line In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ' "earth", ' "measurement") is, with , one of the oldest branches of . It is concerned with properties of space that are related with distance, shape, size, and relative position of ...
s, which intersect the conic at two points and pass through its interior; * exterior lines, which do not meet the conic at any point of the Euclidean plane; or * a directrix, whose distance from a point helps to establish whether the point is on the conic. In the context of determining parallelism in Euclidean geometry, a transversal is a line that intersects two other lines that may or not be parallel to each other. For more general
algebraic curve In mathematics, an affine algebraic plane curve is the zero set of a polynomial in two variables. A projective algebraic plane curve is the zero set in a projective plane of a homogeneous polynomial in three variables. An affine algebraic plane cu ...
s, lines could also be: * ''i''-secant lines, meeting the curve in ''i'' points counted without multiplicity, or *
asymptote In analytic geometry In classical mathematics, analytic geometry, also known as coordinate geometry or Cartesian geometry, is the study of geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέ ...

asymptote
s, which a curve approaches arbitrarily closely without touching it. With respect to
triangles A triangle is a polygon In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measurement") is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is conce ...
we have: * the
Euler line 300px, Euler's line (red) is a straight line through the centroid (orange), orthocenter (blue), circumcenter (green) and center of the nine-point circle (red). In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "ea ...

Euler line
, * the
Simson lineSimson may refer to: * Simson (name) * Simson (artist) Music Producer based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. * Simson (company), a German company that produced firearms, automobiles, motorcycles, and mopeds * Simson line in geometry, named for Rober ...
s, and * central lines. For a
convex Convex means curving outwards like a sphere, and is the opposite of concave. Convex or convexity may refer to: Science and technology * Convex lens A lens is a transmissive optics, optical device which focuses or disperses a light beam by me ...
quadrilateral A quadrilateral is a polygon in Euclidean geometry, Euclidean plane geometry with four Edge (geometry), edges (sides) and four Vertex (geometry), vertices (corners). Other names for quadrilateral include quadrangle (in analogy to triangle) and ...

quadrilateral
with at most two parallel sides, the
Newton line In Euclidean geometry the Newton line is the line that connects the midpoints of the two diagonals in a convex polygon, convex quadrilateral with at most two parallel (geometry), parallel sides.Claudi Alsina, Roger B. Nelsen: ''Charming Proofs: A Jo ...

Newton line
is the line that connects the midpoints of the two
diagonal In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ' "earth", ' "measurement") is, with , one of the oldest branches of . It is concerned with properties of space that are related with distance, shape, size, and relative position o ...

diagonal
s. For a
hexagon In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ' "earth", ' "measurement") is, with , one of the oldest branches of . It is concerned with properties of space that are related with distance, shape, size, and relative position of ...

hexagon
with vertices lying on a conic we have the Pascal line and, in the special case where the conic is a pair of lines, we have the Pappus line.
Parallel lines In geometry, parallel lines are line (geometry), lines in a plane (geometry), plane which do not meet; that is, two straight lines in a plane that do not intersecting lines, intersect at any point are said to be parallel. Colloquially, curves tha ...
are lines in the same plane that never cross.
Intersecting lines In geometry, an intersection is a point, line, or curve common to two or more objects (such as lines, curves, planes, and surfaces). The simplest case in Euclidean geometry is the intersection of two distinct line (geometry), lines, which either i ...
share a single point in common. Coincidental lines coincide with each other—every point that is on either one of them is also on the other. Perpendicular lines are lines that intersect at
right angle In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ' "earth", ' "measurement") is, with , one of the oldest branches of . It is concerned with properties of space that are related with distance, shape, size, and relative position ...

right angle
s. In
three-dimensional space Three-dimensional space (also: 3-space or, rarely, tri-dimensional space) is a geometric setting in which three values (called parameters) are required to determine the position of an element (i.e., point). This is the informal meaning of the ...
,
skew lines In three-dimensional geometry, skew lines are two Line (geometry), lines that do not Line-line intersection, intersect and are not Parallel (geometry), parallel. A simple example of a pair of skew lines is the pair of lines through opposite edges of ...
are lines that are not in the same plane and thus do not intersect each other.


In projective geometry

In many models of
projective geometry In mathematics, projective geometry is the study of geometric properties that are invariant with respect to projective transformations. This means that, compared to elementary Euclidean geometry, projective geometry has a different setting, proj ...
, the representation of a line rarely conforms to the notion of the "straight curve" as it is visualised in Euclidean geometry. In
elliptic geometry Elliptic geometry is an example of a geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measurement") is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is conc ...
we see a typical example of this. In the spherical representation of elliptic geometry, lines are represented by
great circle A great circle, also known as an orthodrome, of a sphere of a sphere A sphere (from Greek language, Greek —, "globe, ball") is a Geometry, geometrical object in solid geometry, three-dimensional space that is the surface of a Ball (mathem ...

great circle
s of a sphere with diametrically opposite points identified. In a different model of elliptic geometry, lines are represented by Euclidean
planes Plane or planes may refer to: * Airplane An airplane or aeroplane (informally plane) is a fixed-wing aircraft that is propelled forward by thrust from a jet engine, Propeller (aircraft), propeller, or rocket engine. Airplanes come in a va ...
passing through the origin. Even though these representations are visually distinct, they satisfy all the properties (such as, two points determining a unique line) that make them suitable representations for lines in this geometry.


Extensions


Ray

Given a line and any point ''A'' on it, we may consider ''A'' as decomposing this line into two parts. Each such part is called a ray and the point ''A'' is called its ''initial point''. It is also known as half-line, a one-dimensional half-space. The point A is considered to be a member of the ray. Intuitively, a ray consists of those points on a line passing through ''A'' and proceeding indefinitely, starting at ''A'', in one direction only along the line. However, in order to use this concept of a ray in proofs a more precise definition is required. Given distinct points ''A'' and ''B'', they determine a unique ray with initial point ''A''. As two points define a unique line, this ray consists of all the points between ''A'' and ''B'' (including ''A'' and ''B'') and all the points ''C'' on the line through ''A'' and ''B'' such that ''B'' is between ''A'' and ''C''. This is, at times, also expressed as the set of all points ''C'' on the line determined by ''A'' and ''B'' such that ''A'' is not between ''B'' and ''C''. A point ''D'', on the line determined by ''A'' and ''B'' but not in the ray with initial point ''A'' determined by ''B'', will determine another ray with initial point ''A''. With respect to the ''AB'' ray, the ''AD'' ray is called the ''opposite ray''. Thus, we would say that two different points, ''A'' and ''B'', define a line and a decomposition of this line into the
disjoint union In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). ...

disjoint union
of an open segment and two rays, ''BC'' and ''AD'' (the point ''D'' is not drawn in the diagram, but is to the left of ''A'' on the line ''AB''). These are not opposite rays since they have different initial points. In Euclidean geometry two rays with a common endpoint form an
angle In Euclidean geometry Euclidean geometry is a mathematical system attributed to Alexandrian Greek mathematics , Greek mathematician Euclid, which he described in his textbook on geometry: the ''Euclid's Elements, Elements''. Euclid's method ...

angle
. The definition of a ray depends upon the notion of betweenness for points on a line. It follows that rays exist only for geometries for which this notion exists, typically
Euclidean geometry Euclidean geometry is a mathematical system attributed to Alexandrian Greek mathematics , Greek mathematician Euclid, which he described in his textbook on geometry: the ''Euclid's Elements, Elements''. Euclid's method consists in assuming a sma ...
or
affine geometry In mathematics, affine geometry is what remains of Euclidean geometry when not using (mathematicians often say "when forgetting") the metric space, metric notions of distance and angle. As the notion of ''parallel lines'' is one of the main prop ...
over an
ordered fieldIn mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ha ...
. On the other hand, rays do not exist in
projective geometry In mathematics, projective geometry is the study of geometric properties that are invariant with respect to projective transformations. This means that, compared to elementary Euclidean geometry, projective geometry has a different setting, proj ...
nor in a geometry over a non-ordered field, like the
complex number In mathematics, a complex number is an element of a number system that contains the real numbers and a specific element denoted , called the imaginary unit, and satisfying the equation . Moreover, every complex number can be expressed in the for ...

complex number
s or any
finite field In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...
.


Line segment

A
line segment In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ' "earth", ' "measurement") is, with , one of the oldest branches of . It is concerned with properties of space that are related with distance, shape, size, and relative position ...

line segment
is a part of a line that is bounded by two distinct end points and contains every point on the line between its end points. Depending on how the line segment is defined, either of the two end points may or may not be part of the line segment. Two or more line segments may have some of the same relationships as lines, such as being parallel, intersecting, or skew, but unlike lines they may be none of these, if they are
coplanarIn geometry, a set of points in space are coplanar if there exists a geometric Plane (mathematics), plane that contains them all. For example, three points are always coplanar, and if the points are distinct and non-collinear points, non-collinear, t ...

coplanar
and either do not intersect or are
collinear In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measurement") is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is concerned with properties of space th ...
.


Geodesics

The "shortness" and "straightness" of a line, interpreted as the property that the
distance Distance is a numerical measurement ' Measurement is the number, numerical quantification (science), quantification of the variable and attribute (research), attributes of an object or event, which can be used to compare with other objects or eve ...

distance
along the line between any two of its points is minimized (see
triangle inequality In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities an ...

triangle inequality
), can be generalized and leads to the concept of
geodesic In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measurement") is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is concerned with properties of space t ...

geodesic
s in
metric space In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and t ...
s.


See also

*
Affine function In Euclidean geometry, an affine transformation, or an affinity (from the Latin, ''affinis'', "connected with"), is a geometric transformation that preserves line (geometry), lines and parallelism (geometry), parallelism (but not necessarily Eucli ...
*
Curve In mathematics, a curve (also called a curved line in older texts) is an object similar to a line (geometry), line, but that does not have to be Linearity, straight. Intuitively, a curve may be thought of as the trace left by a moving point (geo ...

Curve
*
Distance between two linesThe distance between two parallel lines in the plane is the minimum distance between any two points lying on the lines. It equals the perpendicular In elementary geometry, the property of being perpendicular (perpendicularity) is the relation ...
*
Distance from a point to a line In Euclidean geometry Euclidean geometry is a mathematical system attributed to Alexandrian Greek mathematics , Greek mathematician Euclid, which he described in his textbook on geometry: the ''Euclid's Elements, Elements''. Euclid's method cons ...

Distance from a point to a line
* Imaginary line (mathematics) *
Incidence (geometry)In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measurement") is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is concerned with properties of space that ...
* Line coordinates * Line (graphics) * Line segment * Locus (mathematics), Locus * Plane (geometry) * Polyline * Rectilinear (disambiguation)


Notes


References

* * * *


External links

*
Equations of the Straight Line
at Cut-the-Knot {{DEFAULTSORT:Line (Geometry) Elementary geometry Analytic geometry Mathematical concepts