What Is a Horizontal Component?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Apr 3, 2020 2:41:19 AM ET

In science, the horizontal component of a force is the part of the force that is moving directly in a parallel line to the horizontal axis. For example, when a football is kicked, the force of the kick can be divided into a horizontal component, which is moving the football parallel to the ground, and a vertical component, which is moving the football at a right angle to the ground.


A force that has both vertical and horizontal components is displayed mathematically by a slanted line, known as a vector, on a graph. The length of the vector is referred to as its magnitude. The horizontal and vertical components of the vector are found by drawing a right triangle, using the endpoints of the vector as two of the triangle's vertices.

The third vertex is added wherever necessary to form a right triangle with the vector as the hypotenuse. The finished triangle has one side that is parallel to the horizontal axis. The length of this side represents the horizontal component of the vector. Another side of the triangle is parallel to the vertical axis. The length of that side represents the vertical component of the vector. Trigonometry is another method for determining the size of the components of a vector.