Group homomorphism

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Image of a group homomorphism (h) from G (left) to H (right). The smaller oval inside H is the image of h. N is the kernel of h and aN is a coset of N. Group homomorphism ver.2.svg
Image of a group homomorphism (h) from G (left) to H (right). The smaller oval inside H is the image of h. N is the kernel of h and aN is a coset of N.

In mathematics, given two groups, (G, ∗) and (H, ·), a group homomorphism from (G, ∗) to (H, ·) is a function h : GH such that for all u and v in G it holds that


where the group operation on the left side of the equation is that of G and on the right side that of H.

From this property, one can deduce that h maps the identity element eG of G to the identity element eH of H,

and it also maps inverses to inverses in the sense that

Hence one can say that h "is compatible with the group structure".

Older notations for the homomorphism h(x) may be xh or xh,[ citation needed ] though this may be confused as an index or a general subscript. In automata theory, sometimes homomorphisms are written to the right of their arguments without parentheses, so that h(x) becomes simply x h.[ citation needed ]

In areas of mathematics where one considers groups endowed with additional structure, a homomorphism sometimes means a map which respects not only the group structure (as above) but also the extra structure. For example, a homomorphism of topological groups is often required to be continuous.


The purpose of defining a group homomorphism is to create functions that preserve the algebraic structure. An equivalent definition of group homomorphism is: The function h : GH is a group homomorphism if whenever

ab = c  we have  h(a) ⋅ h(b) = h(c).

In other words, the group H in some sense has a similar algebraic structure as G and the homomorphism h preserves that.


A group homomorphism that is injective (or, one-to-one); i.e., preserves distinctness.
A group homomorphism that is surjective (or, onto); i.e., reaches every point in the codomain.
A group homomorphism that is bijective; i.e., injective and surjective. Its inverse is also a group homomorphism. In this case, the groups G and H are called isomorphic; they differ only in the notation of their elements and are identical for all practical purposes.
A homomorphism, h: GG; the domain and codomain are the same. Also called an endomorphism of G.
An endomorphism that is bijective, and hence an isomorphism. The set of all automorphisms of a group G, with functional composition as operation, forms itself a group, the automorphism group of G. It is denoted by Aut(G). As an example, the automorphism group of (Z, +) contains only two elements, the identity transformation and multiplication with −1; it is isomorphic to Z/2Z.

Image and kernel

We define the kernel of h to be the set of elements in G which are mapped to the identity in H

and the image of h to be

The kernel and image of a homomorphism can be interpreted as measuring how close it is to being an isomorphism. The first isomorphism theorem states that the image of a group homomorphism, h(G) is isomorphic to the quotient group G/ker h.

The kernel of h is a normal subgroup of G and the image of h is a subgroup of H:

If and only if ker(h) = {eG}, the homomorphism, h, is a group monomorphism; i.e., h is injective (one-to-one). Injection directly gives that there is a unique element in the kernel, and a unique element in the kernel gives injection:


The category of groups

If h : GH and k : HK are group homomorphisms, then so is kh : GK. This shows that the class of all groups, together with group homomorphisms as morphisms, forms a category.

Homomorphisms of abelian groups

If G and H are abelian (i.e., commutative) groups, then the set Hom(G, H) of all group homomorphisms from G to H is itself an abelian group: the sum h + k of two homomorphisms is defined by

(h + k)(u) = h(u) + k(u)    for all u in G.

The commutativity of H is needed to prove that h + k is again a group homomorphism.

The addition of homomorphisms is compatible with the composition of homomorphisms in the following sense: if f is in Hom(K, G), h, k are elements of Hom(G, H), and g is in Hom(H, L), then

(h + k) ∘ f = (hf) + (kf)   and   g ∘ (h + k) = (gh) + (gk).

Since the composition is associative, this shows that the set End(G) of all endomorphisms of an abelian group forms a ring, the endomorphism ring of G. For example, the endomorphism ring of the abelian group consisting of the direct sum of m copies of Z/nZ is isomorphic to the ring of m-by-m matrices with entries in Z/nZ. The above compatibility also shows that the category of all abelian groups with group homomorphisms forms a preadditive category; the existence of direct sums and well-behaved kernels makes this category the prototypical example of an abelian category.

See also

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