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

In geometry, a trapezoid ( /ˈtræpəzɔɪd/ ) in North American English, or trapezium ( /trəˈpziəm/ ) in British English, [1] [2] is a quadrilateral that has at least one pair of parallel sides.


The parallel sides are called the bases of the trapezoid. The other two sides are called the legs (or the lateral sides) if they are not parallel; otherwise, the trapezoid is a parallelogram, and there are two pairs of bases. A scalene trapezoid is a trapezoid with no sides of equal measure, [3] in contrast with the special cases below.

A trapezoid is usually considered to be a convex quadrilateral in Euclidean geometry, but there are also crossed cases. If ABCD is a convex trapezoid, then ABDC is a crossed trapezoid. The metric formulas in this article apply in convex trapezoids.

Etymology and trapezium versus trapezoid

Hutton's definitions in 1795 Trapezium and Trapezoid, Hutton's mistake in 1795.png
Hutton's definitions in 1795

The ancient Greek mathematician Euclid defined five types of quadrilateral, of which four had two sets of parallel sides (known in English as square, rectangle, rhombus and rhomboid) and the last did not have two sets of parallel sides – a τραπέζια (trapezia [5] literally 'table', itself from τετράς (tetrás) 'four' + πέζα (péza) 'foot; end, border, edge'). [6]

Two types of trapezia were introduced by Proclus (AD 412 to 485) in his commentary on the first book of Euclid's Elements: [4] [7]

All European languages follow Proclus's structure [7] [8] as did English until the late 18th century, until an influential mathematical dictionary published by Charles Hutton in 1795 supported without explanation a transposition of the terms. This was reversed in British English in about 1875, but it has been retained in American English to the present. [4]

The following table compares usages, with the most specific definitions at the top to the most general at the bottom.

TypeSets of parallel sidesImageOriginal terminologyModern terminology
Euclid (Definition 22)Proclus (Definitions 30-34, quoting Posidonius)Euclid / Proclus definitionBritish EnglishAmerican English
Parallelogram2 Rhombus 2 (PSF).png ῥόμβος (rhombos)equilateral but not right-angledRhombus/Parallelogram
Rhomboid 2 (PSF).png ῥομβοειδὲς (rhomboides)opposite sides and angles equal to one another but not equilateral nor right-angledRhomboid/Parallelogram
Non-parallelogram1 Trapezoid 2 (PSF).png τραπέζια (trapezia)τραπέζιον ἰσοσκελὲς (trapezion isoskelés)Two parallel sides, and a line of symmetryIsosceles TrapeziumIsosceles Trapezoid
Trapezoid 3 (PSF).png τραπέζιον σκαληνὸν (trapezion skalinón)Two parallel sides, and no line of symmetryTrapeziumTrapezoid
0 Trapezium (PSF).png τραπέζοειδὲς (trapezoides)No parallel sidesIrregular quadrilateral/Trapezoid [9] [10] Trapezium

Inclusive versus 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. [11] Some sources use the term proper trapezoid to describe trapezoids under the exclusive definition, analogous to uses of the word proper in some other mathematical objects. [12]

Others [13] [ failed verification ] define a trapezoid as a quadrilateral with at least one pair of parallel sides (the inclusive definition [14] ), making the parallelogram a special type of trapezoid. The latter definition is consistent with its uses in higher mathematics such as calculus. This article uses the inclusive definition and considers parallelograms as special cases of a trapezoid. This is also advocated in the taxonomy of quadrilaterals.

Under the inclusive definition, all parallelograms (including rhombuses, squares and non-square rectangles) 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.

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. [13] Right trapezoids are used in the trapezoidal rule for estimating areas under a curve.

An acute trapezoid has two adjacent acute angles on its longer base edge.

An obtuse trapezoid on the other hand has one acute and one obtuse angle on each base.

An isosceles trapezoid is a trapezoid where the base angles have the same measure. As a consequence the two legs are also of equal length and it has reflection symmetry. This is possible for acute trapezoids or right trapezoids (as rectangles).

A parallelogram is (under the inclusive definition) 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 trapezoids or right trapezoids (rectangles).

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 [15]

The quadrilateral is a parallelogram when , but it is an ex-tangential quadrilateral (which is not a trapezoid) when . [16] :p. 35


general trapezoid/trapezium:
parallel sides:
{\displaystyle a,\,b}
{\displaystyle a<b}

{\displaystyle c,\,d}

{\displaystyle q,\,p}

{\displaystyle m}

{\displaystyle h} Trapez mittellinie en labels.svg
general trapezoid/trapezium:
parallel sides: with
trapezoid/trapezium with opposing triangles
{\displaystyle S,\,T}
formed by the diagonals Trapez mittellinie en labels areas.svg
trapezoid/trapezium with opposing triangles formed by the diagonals

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. [16] :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, [13]

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 [13]

where c and d are the lengths of the legs.


The area K of a trapezoid is given by [13]

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. [17] This formula can be factored into a more symmetric version [13]

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 [13]

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 [13]

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. [13]

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: [18]

The line that goes through both the intersection point of the extended nonparallel sides and the intersection point of the diagonals, bisects each base. [19]

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 [20]

The center of area divides this segment in the ratio (when taken from the short to the long side) [21] :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 [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. [22]


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. [23]

Computer engineering

In computer engineering, specifically digital logic and computer architecture, trapezoids are typically utilized to symbolize multiplexors. Multiplexors are logic elements that select between multiple elements and produce a single output based on a select signal. Typical designs will employ trapezoids without specifically stating they are multiplexors as they are universally equivalent.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Area</span> Size of a two-dimensional surface

Area is the measure of a region's size on a surface. The area of a plane region or plane area refers to the area of a shape or planar lamina, while surface area refers to the area of an open surface or the boundary of a three-dimensional object. Area can be understood as the amount of material with a given thickness that would be necessary to fashion a model of the shape, or the amount of paint necessary to cover the surface with a single coat. It is the two-dimensional analogue of the length of a curve or the volume of a solid . Two different regions may have the same area ; by synecdoche, "area" sometimes is used to refer to the region, as in a "polygonal area".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Quadrilateral</span> Polygon with four sides and four corners

In geometry a quadrilateral is a four-sided polygon, having four edges (sides) and four corners (vertices). The word is derived from the Latin words quadri, a variant of four, and latus, meaning "side". It is also called a tetragon, derived from Greek "tetra" meaning "four" and "gon" meaning "corner" or "angle", in analogy to other polygons. Since "gon" means "angle", it is analogously called a quadrangle, or 4-angle. A quadrilateral with vertices , , and is sometimes denoted as .

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rectangle</span> 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 ; or a parallelogram containing a right angle. A rectangle with four sides of equal length is a square. The term "oblong" is used to refer to a non-square rectangle. A rectangle with vertices ABCD would be denoted as  ABCD.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Parallelogram</span> 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bisection</span> Division of something into two equal or congruent parts

In geometry, bisection is the division of something into two equal or congruent parts. Usually it involves a bisecting line, also called a bisector. The most often considered types of bisectors are the segment bisector, a line that passes through the midpoint of a given segment, and the angle bisector, a line that passes through the apex of an angle . In three-dimensional space, bisection is usually done by a bisecting plane, also called the bisector.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rhombus</span> Quadrilateral with sides of equal length

In plane Euclidean geometry, a rhombus is a 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cyclic quadrilateral</span> 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thales's theorem</span> Angle formed by a point on a circle and the 2 ends of a diameter is a right angle

In geometry, Thales's theorem states that if A, B, and C are distinct points on a circle where the line AC is a diameter, the angle ABC is a right angle. Thales's theorem is a special case of the inscribed angle theorem and is mentioned and proved as part of the 31st proposition in the third book of Euclid's Elements. It is generally attributed to Thales of Miletus, but it is sometimes attributed to Pythagoras.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Isosceles trapezoid</span> 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 equal measure, or as a trapezoid whose diagonals have equal length. 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, and the diagonals have equal length. The base angles of an isosceles trapezoid are equal in measure.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Square</span> Regular quadrilateral

In Euclidean geometry, a square is a regular quadrilateral, which means that it has four sides of equal length and four equal angles. It can also be defined as a rectangle with two equal-length adjacent sides. It is the only regular polygon whose internal angle, central angle, and external angle are all equal (90°), and whose diagonals are all equal in length. A square with vertices ABCD would be denoted ABCD.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Antiparallelogram</span> Polygon with four crossed edges of two lengths

In geometry, an antiparallelogram is a type of self-crossing quadrilateral. Like a parallelogram, an antiparallelogram has two opposite pairs of equal-length sides, but these pairs of sides are not in general parallel. Instead, each pair of sides is antiparallel with respect to the other, with sides in the longer pair crossing each other as in a scissors mechanism. Whereas a parallelogram's opposite angles are equal and oriented the same way, an antiparallelogram's are equal but oppositely oriented. Antiparallelograms are also called contraparallelograms or crossed parallelograms.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tangential quadrilateral</span> Polygon whose four sides all touch a circle

In Euclidean geometry, a tangential quadrilateral or circumscribed quadrilateral is a convex quadrilateral whose sides all can be 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Varignon's theorem</span> The midpoints of the sides of an arbitrary quadrilateral form a parallelogram

In Euclidean geometry, Varignon's theorem holds that the midpoints of the sides of an arbitrary quadrilateral form a parallelogram, called the Varignon parallelogram. It is named after Pierre Varignon, whose proof was published posthumously in 1731.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bicentric quadrilateral</span> Convex, 4-sided shape with an incircle and a circumcircle

In Euclidean geometry, a bicentric quadrilateral is a convex quadrilateral that has both an incircle and a circumcircle. The radii and centers 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pythagorean theorem</span> Relation between sides of a right triangle

In mathematics, the Pythagorean theorem or Pythagoras' theorem is a fundamental relation in Euclidean geometry between the three sides of a right triangle. It states that the area of the square whose side is the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the areas of the squares on the other two sides.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Orthodiagonal quadrilateral</span>

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ex-tangential quadrilateral</span> Convex 4-sided polygon whose sidelines are all tangent to an outside circle

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tangential trapezoid</span> Trapezoid whose sides are all tangent to the same circle

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Equidiagonal quadrilateral</span>

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Right kite</span> 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. 1 2 3 James A. H. Murray (1926). A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles: Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by the Philological Society. Vol. X. Clarendon Press at Oxford. p. 286 (Trapezium). With Euclid (c 300 B.C.) τραπέζιον included all quadrilateral figures except the square, rectangle, rhombus, and rhomboid; into the varieties of trapezia he did not enter. But Proclus, who wrote Commentaries on the First Book of Euclid's Elements A.D. 450, retained the name τραπέζιον only for quadrilaterals having two sides parallel, subdividing these into the τραπέζιον ἰσοσκελὲς, isosceles trapezium, having the two non-parallel sides (and the angles at their bases) equal, and σκαληνὸν τραπέζιον, scalene trapezium, in which these sides and angles are unequal. For quadrilaterals having no sides parallel, Proclus introduced the name τραπέζοειδὲς TRAPEZOID. This nomenclature is retained in all the continental languages, and was universal in England till late in the 18th century, when the application of the terms was transposed, so that the figure which Proclus and modern geometers of other nations call specifically a trapezium (F. trapèze, Ger. trapez, Du. trapezium, It. trapezio) became with most English writers a trapezoid, and the trapezoid of Proclus and other nations a trapezium. This changed sense of trapezoid is given in Hutton's Mathematical Dictionary, 1795, as 'sometimes' used -- he does not say by whom; but he himself unfortunately adopted and used it, and his Dictionary was doubtless the chief agent in its diffusion. Some geometers however continued to use the terms in their original senses, and since c 1875 this is the prevalent use.
  5. "Euclid, Elements, book 1, type Def, number 22".
  6. 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.
  7. 1 2 Conway, John H.; Burgiel, Heidi; Goodman-Strauss, Chaim (5 April 2016). The Symmetries of Things. CRC Press. p. 286. ISBN   978-1-4398-6489-0.
  8. For example: French trapèze, Italian trapezio, Portuguese trapézio, Spanish trapecio, German Trapez, Ukrainian "трапеція", e.g. "Larousse definition for trapézoïde".
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  11. "American School definition from """ . Retrieved 2008-04-14.
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  15. Ask Dr. Math (2008), "Area of Trapezoid Given Only the Side Lengths".
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Martin Josefsson, "Characterizations of trapezoids", Forum Geometricorum, 13 (2013) 23-35.
  17. T. K. Puttaswamy, Mathematical achievements of pre-modern Indian mathematicians , Elsevier, 2012, p. 156.
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  21. 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.
  22. "Machu Picchu Lost City of the Incas - Inca Geometry". Retrieved 2018-02-13.
  23. 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