Principal diagonal


[dahy-ag-uh-nl, -ag-nl]

A diagonal can refer to a line joining two nonconsecutive vertices of a polygon or polyhedron, or in contexts any upward or downward sloping line. The word "diagonal" derives from the Greek διαγώνιος (diagonios), used by both Strabo and Euclid to refer to a line connecting two vertices of a rhombus or cuboid, and is formed from dia- ("through", "across") and gonia ("angle", related to gony "knee."), later adopted into Latin as diagonus ("slanting line").

In mathematics, in addition to its geometric meaning, a diagonal is also used in matrices to refer to a set of entries along a diagonal line.

None mathematical uses

In engineering, a diagonal brace is a beam used to brace a rectangular structure (such as scaffolding) to withstand strong forces pushing into it; although called a diagonal, due to practical considerations diagonal braces are often not connected to the corners of the rectangle.

Diagonal pliers are wire-cutting pliers defined by the cutting edges of the jaws intersects the joint rivet at an angle or "on a diagonal", hence the name.

A diagonal lashing is a type of lashing used to bind spars or poles together applied so that the lashings cross over the poles at an angle.

In association football, the diagonal system of control is the method referees and assistant referees use to position themselves in one of the four quadrants of the pitch.


As applied to a polygon, a diagonal is a line segment joining any two non-consecutive vertices. Therefore, a quadrilateral has two diagonals, joining opposite pairs of vertices. For any convex polygon, all the diagonals are inside the polygon, but for re-entrant polygons, some diagonals are outside of the polygon.

Any n-sided polygon (n ≥ 3), convex or concave, has

diagonals, as each vertex has diagonals to all other vertices except itself and the two adjacent vertices, or n − 3 diagonals.


In the case of a square matrix, the main or principal diagonal is the diagonal line of entries running from the top-left to bottom-right corners. For a matrix A with row index specified by i and column index specified by j, these would be elements A_{ij} with i = j. For example, the identity matrix can be defined as having entries of 1 on the main diagonal, and 0s elsewhere. The top-right to bottom-left diagonal is sometimes described as the minor diagonal or antidiagonal. A superdiagonal entry is one that is directly above and to the right of the main diagonal. In like manner to the above, superdiagonal elements can be specified by A_{ij} with j = i+1. If otherwise unqualified, it refers to the one adjacent to the main diagonal. Likewise, a subdiagonal entry is one that is directly below and to the left of the main diagonal. These can be specified as those elements A_{ij} with j = i - 1. The off-diagonal entries are those not on the main diagonal. A diagonal matrix is one whose off-diagonal entries are all zero. General matrix diagonals can be specified by an index k measured relative to the main diagonal, the origin of the diagonal as it were, where k = 0, for which the superdiagonal has k = 1, subdiagonal, k = -1, and where in general those k-diagonal elements A_{ij} require that j = i+k.


By analogy, the subset of the Cartesian product X×X of any set X with itself, consisting of all pairs (x,x), is called the diagonal, and is the graph of the identity relation. This plays an important part in geometry; for example, the fixed points of a mapping F from X to itself may be obtained by intersecting the graph of F with the diagonal.

In geometric studies, the idea of intersecting the diagonal with itself is common, not directly, but by perturbing it within an equivalence class. This is related at a deep level with the Euler characteristic and the zeros of vector fields. For example, the circle S1 has Betti numbers 1, 1, 0, 0, 0, and therefore Euler characteristic 0. A geometric way of expressing this is to look at the diagonal on the two-torus S1xS1 and observe that it can move off itself by the small motion (θ, θ) to (θ, θ + ε). In general, the intersection number of the graph of a function with the diagonal may be computed using homology via the Lefschetz fixed point theorem; the self-intersection of the diagonal is the special case of the identity function.

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