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Some polygons of different kinds: open (excluding its boundary), boundary only (excluding interior), closed (including both boundary and interior), and self-intersecting. Assorted polygons.svg
Some polygons of different kinds: open (excluding its boundary), boundary only (excluding interior), closed (including both boundary and interior), and self-intersecting.

In geometry, a polygon ( /ˈpɒlɪɡɒn/ ) is a plane figure that is described by a finite number of straight line segments connected to form a closed polygonal chain or polygonal circuit. The solid plane region, the bounding circuit, or the two together, may be called a polygon.


The segments of a polygonal circuit are called its edges or sides, and the points where two edges meet are the polygon's vertices (singular: vertex) or corners. The interior of a solid polygon is sometimes called its body. An n-gon is a polygon with n sides; for example, a triangle is a 3-gon.

A simple polygon is one which does not intersect itself. Mathematicians are often concerned only with the bounding polygonal chains of simple polygons and they often define a polygon accordingly. A polygonal boundary may be allowed to cross over itself, creating star polygons and other self-intersecting polygons.

A polygon is a 2-dimensional example of the more general polytope in any number of dimensions. There are many more generalizations of polygons defined for different purposes.


The word polygon derives from the Greek adjective πολύς (polús) 'much', 'many' and γωνία (gōnía) 'corner' or 'angle'. It has been suggested that γόνυ (gónu) 'knee' may be the origin of gon. [1]


Some different types of polygon Polygon types.svg
Some different types of polygon

Number of sides

Polygons are primarily classified by the number of sides. See the table below.

Convexity and non-convexity

Polygons may be characterized by their convexity or type of non-convexity:

Equality and symmetry


Properties and formulas

Euclidean geometry is assumed throughout.


Any polygon has as many corners as it has sides. Each corner has several angles. The two most important ones are:


Coordinates of a non-convex pentagon. Polygon vertex labels.svg
Coordinates of a non-convex pentagon.

In this section, the vertices of the polygon under consideration are taken to be in order. For convenience in some formulas, the notation (xn, yn) = (x0, y0) will also be used.

If the polygon is non-self-intersecting (that is, simple), the signed area is

or, using determinants

where is the squared distance between and [3] [4]

The signed area depends on the ordering of the vertices and of the orientation of the plane. Commonly, the positive orientation is defined by the (counterclockwise) rotation that maps the positive x-axis to the positive y-axis. If the vertices are ordered counterclockwise (that is, according to positive orientation), the signed area is positive; otherwise, it is negative. In either case, the area formula is correct in absolute value. This is commonly called the shoelace formula or Surveyor's formula. [5]

The area A of a simple polygon can also be computed if the lengths of the sides, a1, a2, ..., an and the exterior angles, θ1, θ2, ..., θn are known, from:

The formula was described by Lopshits in 1963. [6]

If the polygon can be drawn on an equally spaced grid such that all its vertices are grid points, Pick's theorem gives a simple formula for the polygon's area based on the numbers of interior and boundary grid points: the former number plus one-half the latter number, minus 1.

In every polygon with perimeter p and area A , the isoperimetric inequality holds. [7]

For any two simple polygons of equal area, the Bolyai–Gerwien theorem asserts that the first can be cut into polygonal pieces which can be reassembled to form the second polygon.

The lengths of the sides of a polygon do not in general determine its area. [8] However, if the polygon is cyclic then the sides do determine the area. [9] Of all n-gons with given side lengths, the one with the largest area is cyclic. Of all n-gons with a given perimeter, the one with the largest area is regular (and therefore cyclic). [10]

Regular polygons

Many specialized formulas apply to the areas of regular polygons.

The area of a regular polygon is given in terms of the radius r of its inscribed circle and its perimeter p by

This radius is also termed its apothem and is often represented as a.

The area of a regular n-gon in terms of the radius R of its circumscribed circle can be expressed trigonometrically as: [11] [12]

The area of a regular n-gon inscribed in a unit-radius circle, with side s and interior angle can also be expressed trigonometrically as:


The area of a self-intersecting polygon can be defined in two different ways, giving different answers:

  • Using the formulas for simple polygons, we allow that particular regions within the polygon may have their area multiplied by a factor which we call the density of the region. For example, the central convex pentagon in the center of a pentagram has density 2. The two triangular regions of a cross-quadrilateral (like a figure 8) have opposite-signed densities, and adding their areas together can give a total area of zero for the whole figure. [13]
  • Considering the enclosed regions as point sets, we can find the area of the enclosed point set. This corresponds to the area of the plane covered by the polygon or to the area of one or more simple polygons having the same outline as the self-intersecting one. In the case of the cross-quadrilateral, it is treated as two simple triangles.[ citation needed ]


Using the same convention for vertex coordinates as in the previous section, the coordinates of the centroid of a solid simple polygon are

In these formulas, the signed value of area must be used.

For triangles (n = 3), the centroids of the vertices and of the solid shape are the same, but, in general, this is not true for n > 3. The centroid of the vertex set of a polygon with n vertices has the coordinates


The idea of a polygon has been generalized in various ways. Some of the more important include:


The word polygon comes from Late Latin polygōnum (a noun), from Greek πολύγωνον (polygōnon/polugōnon), noun use of neuter of πολύγωνος (polygōnos/polugōnos, the masculine adjective), meaning "many-angled". Individual polygons are named (and sometimes classified) according to the number of sides, combining a Greek-derived numerical prefix with the suffix -gon, e.g. pentagon , dodecagon . The triangle, quadrilateral and nonagon are exceptions.

Beyond decagons (10-sided) and dodecagons (12-sided), mathematicians generally use numerical notation, for example 17-gon and 257-gon. [16]

Exceptions exist for side counts that are more easily expressed in verbal form (e.g. 20 and 30), or are used by non-mathematicians. Some special polygons also have their own names; for example the regular star pentagon is also known as the pentagram.

Polygon names and miscellaneous properties
monogon 1Not generally recognised as a polygon, [17] although some disciplines such as graph theory sometimes use the term. [18]
digon 2Not generally recognised as a polygon in the Euclidean plane, although it can exist as a spherical polygon. [19]
triangle (or trigon)3The simplest polygon which can exist in the Euclidean plane. Can tile the plane.
quadrilateral (or tetragon)4The simplest polygon which can cross itself; the simplest polygon which can be concave; the simplest polygon which can be non-cyclic. Can tile the plane.
pentagon 5 [20] The simplest polygon which can exist as a regular star. A star pentagon is known as a pentagram or pentacle.
hexagon 6 [20] Can tile the plane.
heptagon (or septagon)7 [20] The simplest polygon such that the regular form is not constructible with compass and straightedge. However, it can be constructed using a Neusis construction.
octagon 8 [20]
nonagon (or enneagon)9 [20] "Nonagon" mixes Latin [novem = 9] with Greek; "enneagon" is pure Greek.
decagon 10 [20]
hendecagon (or undecagon)11 [20] The simplest polygon such that the regular form cannot be constructed with compass, straightedge, and angle trisector.
dodecagon (or duodecagon)12 [20]
tridecagon (or triskaidecagon)13 [20]
tetradecagon (or tetrakaidecagon)14 [20]
pentadecagon (or pentakaidecagon)15 [20]
hexadecagon (or hexakaidecagon)16 [20]
heptadecagon (or heptakaidecagon)17 Constructible polygon [16]
octadecagon (or octakaidecagon)18 [20]
enneadecagon (or enneakaidecagon)19 [20]
icosagon 20 [20]
icositetragon (or icosikaitetragon)24 [20]
triacontagon 30 [20]
tetracontagon (or tessaracontagon)40 [20] [21]
pentacontagon (or pentecontagon)50 [20] [21]
hexacontagon (or hexecontagon)60 [20] [21]
heptacontagon (or hebdomecontagon)70 [20] [21]
octacontagon (or ogdoëcontagon)80 [20] [21]
enneacontagon (or enenecontagon)90 [20] [21]
hectogon (or hecatontagon) [22] 100 [20]
257-gon 257 Constructible polygon [16]
chiliagon 1000Philosophers including René Descartes, [23] Immanuel Kant, [24] David Hume, [25] have used the chiliagon as an example in discussions.
myriagon 10,000Used as an example in some philosophical discussions, for example in Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy
65537-gon 65,537 Constructible polygon [16]
megagon [26] [27] [28] 1,000,000As with René Descartes's example of the chiliagon, the million-sided polygon has been used as an illustration of a well-defined concept that cannot be visualised. [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] The megagon is also used as an illustration of the convergence of regular polygons to a circle. [36]
apeirogon A degenerate polygon of infinitely many sides.

Constructing higher names

To construct the name of a polygon with more than 20 and less than 100 edges, combine the prefixes as follows. [20] The "kai" term applies to 13-gons and higher and was used by Kepler, and advocated by John H. Conway for clarity to concatenated prefix numbers in the naming of quasiregular polyhedra. [22]

TensandOnesfinal suffix
20icosi- (icosa- when alone)2-di-
30triaconta- (or triconta-)3-tri-
40tetraconta- (or tessaraconta-)4-tetra-
50pentaconta- (or penteconta-)5-penta-
60hexaconta- (or hexeconta-)6-hexa-
70heptaconta- (or hebdomeconta-)7-hepta-
80octaconta- (or ogdoëconta-)8-octa-
90enneaconta- (or eneneconta-)9-ennea-


Historical image of polygons (1699) Fotothek df tg 0003352 Geometrie ^ Dreieck ^ Viereck ^ Vieleck ^ Winkel.jpg
Historical image of polygons (1699)

Polygons have been known since ancient times. The regular polygons were known to the ancient Greeks, with the pentagram, a non-convex regular polygon (star polygon), appearing as early as the 7th century B.C. on a krater by Aristophanes, found at Caere and now in the Capitoline Museum. [37] [38]

The first known systematic study of non-convex polygons in general was made by Thomas Bradwardine in the 14th century. [39]

In 1952, Geoffrey Colin Shephard generalized the idea of polygons to the complex plane, where each real dimension is accompanied by an imaginary one, to create complex polygons. [40]

In nature

The Giant's Causeway, in Northern Ireland Giants causeway closeup.jpg
The Giant's Causeway, in Northern Ireland

Polygons appear in rock formations, most commonly as the flat facets of crystals, where the angles between the sides depend on the type of mineral from which the crystal is made.

Regular hexagons can occur when the cooling of lava forms areas of tightly packed columns of basalt, which may be seen at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, or at the Devil's Postpile in California.

In biology, the surface of the wax honeycomb made by bees is an array of hexagons, and the sides and base of each cell are also polygons.

Computer graphics

In computer graphics, a polygon is a primitive used in modelling and rendering. They are defined in a database, containing arrays of vertices (the coordinates of the geometrical vertices, as well as other attributes of the polygon, such as color, shading and texture), connectivity information, and materials. [41] [42]

Any surface is modelled as a tessellation called polygon mesh. If a square mesh has n + 1 points (vertices) per side, there are n squared squares in the mesh, or 2n squared triangles since there are two triangles in a square. There are (n + 1)2 / 2(n2) vertices per triangle. Where n is large, this approaches one half. Or, each vertex inside the square mesh connects four edges (lines).

The imaging system calls up the structure of polygons needed for the scene to be created from the database. This is transferred to active memory and finally, to the display system (screen, TV monitors etc.) so that the scene can be viewed. During this process, the imaging system renders polygons in correct perspective ready for transmission of the processed data to the display system. Although polygons are two-dimensional, through the system computer they are placed in a visual scene in the correct three-dimensional orientation.

In computer graphics and computational geometry, it is often necessary to determine whether a given point P = (x0,y0) lies inside a simple polygon given by a sequence of line segments. This is called the point in polygon test. [43]

See also

Related Research Articles

Dual polyhedron

In geometry, any polyhedron is associated with a second dual figure, where the vertices of one correspond to the faces of the other and the edges between pairs of vertices of one correspond to the edges between pairs of faces of the other. Such dual figures remain combinatorial or abstract polyhedra, but not all are also geometric polyhedra. Starting with any given polyhedron, the dual of its dual is the original polyhedron.

Regular icosahedron Platonic solid

In geometry, a regular icosahedron is a convex polyhedron with 20 faces, 30 edges and 12 vertices. It is one of the five Platonic solids, and the one with the most faces.

Octahedron Polyhedron with 8 faces

In geometry, an octahedron is a polyhedron with eight faces, twelve edges, and six vertices. The term is most commonly used to refer to the regular octahedron, a Platonic solid composed of eight equilateral triangles, four of which meet at each vertex.

In three-dimensional space, a Platonic solid is a regular, convex polyhedron. It is constructed by congruent, regular, polygonal faces with the same number of faces meeting at each vertex. Five solids meet these criteria:

Quadrilateral polygon with four sides and four corners

A quadrilateral is a polygon in Euclidean plane geometry with four edges (sides) and four vertices (corners). Other names for quadrilateral include quadrangle, tetragon, and 4-gon. A quadrilateral with vertices , , and is sometimes denoted as .

Tetrahedron Polyhedron with 4 faces

In geometry, a tetrahedron, also known as a triangular pyramid, is a polyhedron composed of four triangular faces, six straight edges, and four vertex corners. The tetrahedron is the simplest of all the ordinary convex polyhedra and the only one that has fewer than 5 faces.

Triangle Shape with three sides

A triangle is a polygon with three edges and three vertices. It is one of the basic shapes in geometry. A triangle with vertices A, B, and C is denoted .

Simplex Multi-dimensional generalization of triangle

In geometry, a simplex is a generalization of the notion of a triangle or tetrahedron to arbitrary dimensions. The simplex is so-named because it represents the simplest possible polytope in any given space.

In geometry, a solid angle is a measure of the amount of the field of view from some particular point that a given object covers. That is, it is a measure of how large the object appears to an observer looking from that point. The point from which the object is viewed is called the apex of the solid angle, and the object is said to subtend its solid angle from that point.

In Euclidean geometry, a regular polygon is a polygon that is equiangular and equilateral. Regular polygons may be either convex or star. In the limit, a sequence of regular polygons with an increasing number of sides approximates a circle, if the perimeter or area is fixed, or a regular apeirogon, if the edge length is fixed.

Central angle

A central angle is an angle whose apex (vertex) is the center O of a circle and whose legs (sides) are radii intersecting the circle in two distinct points A and B. Central angles are subtended by an arc between those two points, and the arc length is the central angle of a circle of radius one. The central angle is also known as the arc's angular distance.

Cross-polytope Regular polytope dual to the hypercube in any number of dimensions

In geometry, a cross-polytope, hyperoctahedron, orthoplex, or cocube is a regular, convex polytope that exists in n-dimensions. A 2-dimensional cross-polytope is a square, a 3-dimensional cross-polytope is a regular octahedron, and a 4-dimensional cross-polytope is a 16-cell. Its facets are simplexes of the previous dimension, while the cross-polytope's vertex figure is another cross-polytope from the previous dimension.

Ptolemys theorem Relates the 4 sides and 2 diagonals of a quadrilateral with vertices on a common circle

In Euclidean geometry, Ptolemy's theorem is a relation between the four sides and two diagonals of a cyclic quadrilateral. The theorem is named after the Greek astronomer and mathematician Ptolemy. Ptolemy used the theorem as an aid to creating his table of chords, a trigonometric table that he applied to astronomy.

Area of a circle

In geometry, the area enclosed by a circle of radius r is πr2. Here the Greek letter π represents the constant ratio of the circumference of any circle to its diameter, approximately equal to 3.14159.

Circumscribed circle

In geometry, the circumscribed circle or circumcircle of a polygon is a circle that passes through all the vertices of the polygon. The center of this circle is called the circumcenter and its radius is called the circumradius.

In geometry, a vertex, often denoted by letters such as , , , , is a point where two or more curves, lines, or edges meet. As a consequence of this definition, the point where two lines meet to form an angle and the corners of polygons and polyhedra are vertices.

Two-dimensional space Geometric model of the planar projection of the physical universe

Two-dimensional space is a geometric setting in which two values are required to determine the position of an element. The set 2 of pairs of real numbers with appropriate structure often serves as the canonical example of a two-dimensional Euclidean space. For a generalization of the concept, see dimension.

Pentagon shape with five sides

In geometry, a pentagon is any five-sided polygon or 5-gon. The sum of the internal angles in a simple pentagon is 540°.




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Family An Bn I2(p) / Dn E6 / E7 / E8 / F4 / G2 Hn
Regular polygon Triangle Square p-gon Hexagon Pentagon
Uniform polyhedron Tetrahedron OctahedronCube Demicube DodecahedronIcosahedron
Uniform 4-polytope 5-cell 16-cellTesseract Demitesseract 24-cell 120-cell600-cell
Uniform 5-polytope 5-simplex 5-orthoplex5-cube 5-demicube
Uniform 6-polytope 6-simplex 6-orthoplex6-cube 6-demicube 122221
Uniform 7-polytope 7-simplex 7-orthoplex7-cube 7-demicube 132231321
Uniform 8-polytope 8-simplex 8-orthoplex8-cube 8-demicube 142241421
Uniform 9-polytope 9-simplex 9-orthoplex9-cube 9-demicube
Uniform 10-polytope 10-simplex 10-orthoplex10-cube 10-demicube
Uniform n-polytope n-simplex n-orthoplexn-cube n-demicube 1k22k1k21 n-pentagonal polytope
Topics: Polytope familiesRegular polytopeList of regular polytopes and compounds