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Trapezoid (AmE)
Trapezium (BrE)
Type quadrilateral
Edges and vertices 4
Properties convex

In Euclidean geometry, a convex quadrilateral with at least one pair of parallel sides is referred to as a trapezoid [1] [2] ( /ˈtræpəzɔɪd/ ) in American and Canadian English but as a trapezium ( /trəˈpziəm/ ) in English outside North America. The parallel sides are called the bases of the trapezoid and the other two sides are called the legs or the lateral sides (if they are not parallel; otherwise there are two pairs of bases). A scalene trapezoid is a trapezoid with no sides of equal measure, [3] in contrast to the special cases below.

Euclidean geometry mathematical system attributed to Euclid

Euclidean geometry is a mathematical system attributed to Alexandrian Greek mathematician Euclid, which he described in his textbook on geometry: the Elements. Euclid's method consists in assuming a small set of intuitively appealing axioms, and deducing many other propositions (theorems) from these. Although many of Euclid's results had been stated by earlier mathematicians, Euclid was the first to show how these propositions could fit into a comprehensive deductive and logical system. The Elements begins with plane geometry, still taught in secondary school as the first axiomatic system and the first examples of formal proof. It goes on to the solid geometry of three dimensions. Much of the Elements states results of what are now called algebra and number theory, explained in geometrical language.

Convex polygon convex hull of a finite set of points in a plane

A convex polygon is a simple polygon in which no line segment between two points on the boundary ever goes outside the polygon. Equivalently, it is a simple polygon whose interior is a convex set. In a convex polygon, all interior angles are less than or equal to 180 degrees, while in a strictly convex polygon all interior angles are strictly less than 180 degrees.

Quadrilateral shape with four sides

In Euclidean plane geometry, a quadrilateral is a polygon with four edges and four vertices or corners. Sometimes, the term quadrangle is used, by analogy with triangle, and sometimes tetragon for consistency with pentagon (5-sided), hexagon (6-sided) and so on.



The term trapezium has been in use in English since 1570, from Late Latin trapezium, from Greek τραπέζιον (trapézion), literally "a little table", a diminutive of τράπεζα (trápeza), "a table", itself from τετράς (tetrás), "four" + πέζα (péza), "a foot; end, border, edge". [4]

The first recorded use of the Greek word translated trapezoid (τραπεζοειδή, trapezoeidé, "table-like") was by Marinus Proclus (412 to 485 AD) in his Commentary on the first book of Euclid's Elements. [5]

Proclus Lycaeus, called the Successor, was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last major classical philosophers. He set forth one of the most elaborate and fully developed systems of Neoplatonism. He stands near the end of the classical development of philosophy, and was very influential on Western medieval philosophy.

Euclids <i>Elements</i> mathematical treatise by Euclid

The Elements is a mathematical treatise consisting of 13 books attributed to the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid in Alexandria, Ptolemaic Egypt c. 300 BC. It is a collection of definitions, postulates, propositions, and mathematical proofs of the propositions. The books cover plane and solid Euclidean geometry, elementary number theory, and incommensurable lines. Elements is the oldest extant large-scale deductive treatment of mathematics. It has proven instrumental in the development of logic and modern science, and its logical rigor was not surpassed until the 19th century.

This article uses the term trapezoid in the sense that is current in the United States and Canada. In many other languages using a word derived from the Greek for this figure, the form closest to trapezium (e.g. Portuguese trapézio, French trapèze, Italian trapezio, Spanish trapecio, German Trapez, Russian "трапеция") is used.

Inclusive vs exclusive definition

There is some disagreement whether parallelograms, which have two pairs of parallel sides, should be regarded as trapezoids. Some define a trapezoid as a quadrilateral having only one pair of parallel sides (the exclusive definition), thereby excluding parallelograms. [6] Others [7] define a trapezoid as a quadrilateral with at least one pair of parallel sides (the inclusive definition [8] ), making the parallelogram a special type of trapezoid. The latter definition is consistent with its uses in higher mathematics such as calculus. The former definition would make such concepts as the trapezoidal approximation to a definite integral ill-defined. This article uses the inclusive definition and considers parallelograms as special cases of a trapezoid. This is also advocated in the taxonomy of quadrilaterals.

Parallelogram quadrilateral with two pairs of parallel sides

In Euclidean geometry, a parallelogram is a simple (non-self-intersecting) quadrilateral with two pairs of parallel sides. The opposite or facing sides of a parallelogram are of equal length and the opposite angles of a parallelogram are of equal measure. The congruence of opposite sides and opposite angles is a direct consequence of the Euclidean parallel postulate and neither condition can be proven without appealing to the Euclidean parallel postulate or one of its equivalent formulations.

Calculus is the mathematical study of continuous change, in the same way that geometry is the study of shape and algebra is the study of generalizations of arithmetic operations.

Under the inclusive definition, all parallelograms (including rhombuses, rectangles and squares) are trapezoids. Rectangles have mirror symmetry on mid-edges; rhombuses have mirror symmetry on vertices, while squares have mirror symmetry on both mid-edges and vertices.

Rhombus quadrilateral in which all sides have the same length

In plane Euclidean geometry, a rhombus is a simple (non-self-intersecting) quadrilateral whose four sides all have the same length. Another name is equilateral quadrilateral, since equilateral means that all of its sides are equal in length. The rhombus is often called a diamond, after the diamonds suit in playing cards which resembles the projection of an octahedral diamond, or a lozenge, though the former sometimes refers specifically to a rhombus with a 60° angle, and the latter sometimes refers specifically to a rhombus with a 45° angle.

Rectangle Quadrilateral with four right angles

In Euclidean plane geometry, a rectangle is a quadrilateral with four right angles. It can also be defined as an equiangular quadrilateral, since equiangular means that all of its angles are equal. It can also be defined as a parallelogram containing a right angle. A rectangle with four sides of equal length is a square. The term oblong is occasionally used to refer to a non-square rectangle. A rectangle with vertices ABCD would be denoted as  ABCD.

Special cases

Trapezoid special cases. The orange figures also qualify as parallelograms. Trapezoid special cases.png
Trapezoid special cases. The orange figures also qualify as parallelograms.

A right trapezoid (also called right-angled trapezoid) has two adjacent right angles. [7] Right trapezoids are used in the trapezoidal rule for estimating areas under a curve.

Trapezoidal rule Numerical integration method

In mathematics, and more specifically in numerical analysis, the trapezoidal rule is a technique for approximating the definite integral.

An acute trapezoid has two adjacent acute angles on its longer base edge, while an obtuse trapezoid has one acute and one obtuse angle on each base.

An isosceles trapezoid is a trapezoid where the sides (legs) have the same length, and the base angles have the same measure. It has reflection symmetry. This is possible for acute or right trapezoids.

A parallelogram is a trapezoid with two pairs of parallel sides. A parallelogram has central 2-fold rotational symmetry (or point reflection symmetry). It is possible for obtuse or right trapezoids.

A tangential trapezoid is a trapezoid that has an incircle.

A Saccheri quadrilateral is similar to a trapezoid in the hyperbolic plane, with two adjacent right angles, while it is a rectangle in the Euclidean plane. A Lambert quadrilateral in the hyperbolic plane has 3 right angles.

Condition of existence

Four lengths a, c, b, d can constitute the consecutive sides of a non-parallelogram trapezoid with a and b parallel only when [9]

The quadrilateral is a parallelogram when , but it is an ex-tangential quadrilateral (which is not a trapezoid) when . [10] :p. 35


Given a convex quadrilateral, the following properties are equivalent, and each implies that the quadrilateral is a trapezoid:

where K is the area of the quadrilateral. [10] :Thm.8

Additionally, the following properties are equivalent, and each implies that opposite sides a and b are parallel:

Midsegment and height

The midsegment (also called the median or midline) of a trapezoid is the segment that joins the midpoints of the legs. It is parallel to the bases. Its length m is equal to the average of the lengths of the bases a and b of the trapezoid, [7]

The midsegment of a trapezoid is one of the two bimedians (the other bimedian divides the trapezoid into equal areas).

The height (or altitude) is the perpendicular distance between the bases. In the case that the two bases have different lengths (ab), the height of a trapezoid h can be determined by the length of its four sides using the formula [7]

where c and d are the lengths of the legs.


The area K of a trapezoid is given by [7]

where a and b are the lengths of the parallel sides, h is the height (the perpendicular distance between these sides), and m is the arithmetic mean of the lengths of the two parallel sides. In 499 AD Aryabhata, a great mathematician-astronomer from the classical age of Indian mathematics and Indian astronomy, used this method in the Aryabhatiya (section 2.8). This yields as a special case the well-known formula for the area of a triangle, by considering a triangle as a degenerate trapezoid in which one of the parallel sides has shrunk to a point.

The 7th-century Indian mathematician Bhāskara I derived the following formula for the area of a trapezoid with consecutive sides a, c, b, d:

where a and b are parallel and b > a. [11] This formula can be factored into a more symmetric version [7]

When one of the parallel sides has shrunk to a point (say a = 0), this formula reduces to Heron's formula for the area of a triangle.

Another equivalent formula for the area, which more closely resembles Heron's formula, is [7]

where is the semiperimeter of the trapezoid. (This formula is similar to Brahmagupta's formula, but it differs from it, in that a trapezoid might not be cyclic (inscribed in a circle). The formula is also a special case of Bretschneider's formula for a general quadrilateral).

From Bretschneider's formula, it follows that

The line that joins the midpoints of the parallel sides, bisects the area.



The lengths of the diagonals are [7]

where a is the short base, b is the long base, and c and d are the trapezoid legs.

If the trapezoid is divided into four triangles by its diagonals AC and BD (as shown on the right), intersecting at O, then the area of AOD is equal to that of BOC, and the product of the areas of AOD and BOC is equal to that of AOB and COD. The ratio of the areas of each pair of adjacent triangles is the same as that between the lengths of the parallel sides. [7]

Let the trapezoid have vertices A, B, C, and D in sequence and have parallel sides AB and DC. Let E be the intersection of the diagonals, and let F be on side DA and G be on side BC such that FEG is parallel to AB and CD. Then FG is the harmonic mean of AB and DC: [12]

The line that goes through both the intersection point of the extended nonparallel sides and the intersection point of the diagonals, bisects each base. [13]

Other properties

The center of area (center of mass for a uniform lamina) lies along the line segment joining the midpoints of the parallel sides, at a perpendicular distance x from the longer side b given by [14]

The center of area divides this segment in the ratio (when taken from the short to the long side) [15] :p. 862

If the angle bisectors to angles A and B intersect at P, and the angle bisectors to angles C and D intersect at Q, then [13]

More on terminology

The term trapezoid was once defined as a quadrilateral without any parallel sides in Britain and elsewhere. (The Oxford English Dictionary says "Often called by English writers in the 19th century".) [16] According to the Oxford English Dictionary , the sense of a figure with no sides parallel is the meaning for which Proclus introduced the term "trapezoid". This is retained in the French trapézoïde ( [17] ), German Trapezoid, and in other languages. However, this particular sense is considered obsolete.

A trapezium in Proclus' sense is a quadrilateral having one pair of its opposite sides parallel. This was the specific sense in England in 17th and 18th centuries, and again the prevalent one in recent use outside North America. A trapezium as any quadrilateral more general than a parallelogram is the sense of the term in Euclid.

Confusingly, the word trapezium was sometimes used in England from c. 1800 to c. 1875, to denote an irregular quadrilateral having no sides parallel. This is now obsolete in England, but continues in North America. However this shape is more usually (and less confusingly) just called an irregular quadrilateral. [18] [19]


The Temple of Dendur in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City Temple of Dendur- night.jpg
The Temple of Dendur in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City


In architecture the word is used to refer to symmetrical doors, windows, and buildings built wider at the base, tapering toward the top, in Egyptian style. If these have straight sides and sharp angular corners, their shapes are usually isosceles trapezoids. This was the standard style for the doors and windows of the Inca. [20]


The crossed ladders problem is the problem of finding the distance between the parallel sides of a right trapezoid, given the diagonal lengths and the distance from the perpendicular leg to the diagonal intersection.


Example of a trapeziform pronotum outlined on a spurge bug Juanita Vilas Marchant Stenocephalidae Heteroptera HemipteraP.jpg
Example of a trapeziform pronotum outlined on a spurge bug

In morphology, taxonomy and other descriptive disciplines in which a term for such shapes is necessary, terms such as trapezoidal or trapeziform commonly are useful in descriptions of particular organs or forms. [21]

See also

Related Research Articles

Kite (geometry) quadrilateral whose four sides can be grouped into two pairs of equal-length sides that are adjacent to each other

In Euclidean geometry, a kite is a quadrilateral whose four sides can be grouped into two pairs of equal-length sides that are adjacent to each other. In contrast, a parallelogram also has two pairs of equal-length sides, but they are opposite to each other rather than adjacent. Kite quadrilaterals are named for the wind-blown, flying kites, which often have this shape and which are in turn named for a bird. Kites are also known as deltoids, but the word "deltoid" may also refer to a deltoid curve, an unrelated geometric object.

Bisection division of something into two equal or congruent parts

In geometry, bisection is the division of something into two equal or congruent parts, usually by a line, which is then called a bisector. The most often considered types of bisectors are the segment bisector and the angle bisector.

Cyclic quadrilateral Quadrilateral whose vertices can all fall on a single circle

In Euclidean geometry, a cyclic quadrilateral or inscribed quadrilateral is a quadrilateral whose vertices all lie on a single circle. This circle is called the circumcircle or circumscribed circle, and the vertices are said to be concyclic. The center of the circle and its radius are called the circumcenter and the circumradius respectively. Other names for these quadrilaterals are concyclic quadrilateral and chordal quadrilateral, the latter since the sides of the quadrilateral are chords of the circumcircle. Usually the quadrilateral is assumed to be convex, but there are also crossed cyclic quadrilaterals. The formulas and properties given below are valid in the convex case.

Midpoint middle point of a line segment

In geometry, the midpoint is the middle point of a line segment. It is equidistant from both endpoints, and it is the centroid both of the segment and of the endpoints. It bisects the segment.

Isosceles trapezoid Trapezoid symmetrical about an axis

In Euclidean geometry, an isosceles trapezoid is a convex quadrilateral with a line of symmetry bisecting one pair of opposite sides. It is a special case of a trapezoid. Alternatively, it can be defined as a trapezoid in which both legs and both base angles are of the same measure. Note that a non-rectangular parallelogram is not an isosceles trapezoid because of the second condition, or because it has no line of symmetry. In any isosceles trapezoid, two opposite sides are parallel, and the two other sides are of equal length. The diagonals are also of equal length. The base angles of an isosceles trapezoid are equal in measure.

Square regular quadrilateral

In geometry, a square is a regular quadrilateral, which means that it has four equal sides and four equal angles (90-degree angles, or. It can also be defined as a rectangle in which two adjacent sides have equal length. A square with vertices ABCD would be denoted ABCD.

In geometry, the semiperimeter of a polygon is half its perimeter. Although it has such a simple derivation from the perimeter, the semiperimeter appears frequently enough in formulas for triangles and other figures that it is given a separate name. When the semiperimeter occurs as part of a formula, it is typically denoted by the letter s.

Tangential quadrilateral quadrilateral whose sides are all tangent to a single circle interior to it

In Euclidean geometry, a tangential quadrilateral or circumscribed quadrilateral is a convex quadrilateral whose sides are all tangent to a single circle within the quadrilateral. This circle is called the incircle of the quadrilateral or its inscribed circle, its center is the incenter and its radius is called the inradius. Since these quadrilaterals can be drawn surrounding or circumscribing their incircles, they have also been called circumscribable quadrilaterals, circumscribing quadrilaterals, and circumscriptible quadrilaterals. Tangential quadrilaterals are a special case of tangential polygons.

Varignons theorem

Varignon's theorem is a statement in Euclidean geometry, that deals with the construction of a particular parallelogram, the Varignon parallelogram, from an arbitrary quadrilateral (quadrangle). It is named after Pierre Varignon, who published it in 1731.

Bicentric quadrilateral Type of shape

In Euclidean geometry, a bicentric quadrilateral is a convex quadrilateral that has both an incircle and a circumcircle. The radii and center of these circles are called inradius and circumradius, and incenter and circumcenter respectively. From the definition it follows that bicentric quadrilaterals have all the properties of both tangential quadrilaterals and cyclic quadrilaterals. Other names for these quadrilaterals are chord-tangent quadrilateral and inscribed and circumscribed quadrilateral. It has also rarely been called a double circle quadrilateral and double scribed quadrilateral.

Pythagorean theorem Equation relating the side lengths of a right triangle

In mathematics, the Pythagorean theorem, also known as Pythagoras' theorem, is a fundamental relation in Euclidean geometry among the three sides of a right triangle. It states that the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. The theorem can be written as an equation relating the lengths of the sides a, b and c, often called the "Pythagorean equation":

Orthodiagonal quadrilateral quadrilateral in which the diagonals cross at right angles

In Euclidean geometry, an orthodiagonal quadrilateral is a quadrilateral in which the diagonals cross at right angles. In other words, it is a four-sided figure in which the line segments between non-adjacent vertices are orthogonal (perpendicular) to each other.

Ex-tangential quadrilateral convex quadrilateral where the extensions of all four sides are tangent to a circle outside it

In Euclidean geometry, an ex-tangential quadrilateral is a convex quadrilateral where the extensions of all four sides are tangent to a circle outside the quadrilateral. It has also been called an exscriptible quadrilateral. The circle is called its excircle, its radius the exradius and its center the excenter. The excenter lies at the intersection of six angle bisectors. These are the internal angle bisectors at two opposite vertex angles, the external angle bisectors at the other two vertex angles, and the external angle bisectors at the angles formed where the extensions of opposite sides intersect. The ex-tangential quadrilateral is closely related to the tangential quadrilateral.

Tangential trapezoid trapezoid whose four sides are all tangent to a circle within it

In Euclidean geometry, a tangential trapezoid, also called a circumscribed trapezoid, is a trapezoid whose four sides are all tangent to a circle within the trapezoid: the incircle or inscribed circle. It is the special case of a tangential quadrilateral in which at least one pair of opposite sides are parallel. As for other trapezoids, the parallel sides are called the bases and the other two sides the legs. The legs can be equal, but they don't have to be.

Equidiagonal quadrilateral quadrilateral in which diagonals are of equal length

In Euclidean geometry, an equidiagonal quadrilateral is a convex quadrilateral whose two diagonals have equal length. Equidiagonal quadrilaterals were important in ancient Indian mathematics, where quadrilaterals were classified first according to whether they were equidiagonal and then into more specialized types.

Right kite Symmetrical quadrilateral

In Euclidean geometry, a right kite is a kite that can be inscribed in a circle. That is, it is a kite with a circumcircle. Thus the right kite is a convex quadrilateral and has two opposite right angles. If there are exactly two right angles, each must be between sides of different lengths. All right kites are bicentric quadrilaterals, since all kites have an incircle. One of the diagonals divides the right kite into two right triangles and is also a diameter of the circumcircle.


  1. Mathopenref definition
  2. A. D. Gardiner & C. J. Bradley, Plane Euclidean Geometry: Theory and Problems, UKMT, 2005, p. 34.
  3. Types of quadrilaterals
  4. πέζα is said to be the Doric and Arcadic form of πούς "foot", but recorded only in the sense "instep [of a human foot]", whence the meaning "edge, border". τράπεζα "table" is Homeric. Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, Henry Stuart Jones, A Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford, Clarendon Press (1940), s.v. πέζα, τράπεζα.
  5. Oxford English Dictionary entry at trapezoid.
  6. "American School definition from """ . Retrieved 2008-04-14.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Weisstein, Eric W. "Trapezoid". MathWorld .
  8. Trapezoids, . Retrieved 2012-02-24.
  9. Ask Dr. Math (2008), "Area of Trapezoid Given Only the Side Lengths".
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Martin Josefsson, "Characterizations of trapezoids", Forum Geometricorum, 13 (2013) 23-35.
  11. T. K. Puttaswamy, Mathematical achievements of pre-modern Indian mathematicians, Elsevier, 2012, p. 156.
  12. GoGeometry, . Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  13. 1 2 Owen Byer, Felix Lazebnik and Deirdre Smeltzer, Methods for Euclidean Geometry, Mathematical Association of America, 2010, p. 55.
  14. efunda, General Trapezoid, . Retrieved 2012-07-09.
  15. Tom M. Apostol and Mamikon A. Mnatsakanian (December 2004). "Figures Circumscribing Circles" (PDF). American Mathematical Monthly. 111 (10): 853–863. doi:10.2307/4145094. JSTOR   4145094 . Retrieved 2016-04-06.
  16. Oxford English Dictionary entries for trapezoid and trapezium.
  17. "Larousse definition for trapézoïde".
  18. Chambers 21st Century Dictionary Trapezoid
  19. "1913 American definition of trapezium". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 2007-12-10.
  20. "Machu Picchu Lost City of the Incas - Inca Geometry". Retrieved 2018-02-13.
  21. John L. Capinera (11 August 2008). Encyclopedia of Entomology. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 386, 1062, 1247. ISBN   978-1-4020-6242-1.

Further reading