Binary relation

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A two-place predicate on a given set. The term is sometimes used to denote a subset of the set of ordered pairs of elements of a given set . A binary relation is a special case of a relation. Let . If , then one says that the element is in binary relation to the element . An alternative notation for is .

The empty subset in and the set itself are called, respectively, the nil relation and the universal relation in the set . The diagonal of the set , i.e. the set , is the equality relation or the identity binary relation in .

Let be binary relations in a set . In addition to the set-theoretic operations of union , intersection , and complementation , one has the inversion

as well as the operation of multiplication:

The binary relation is said to be the inverse of . Multiplication of binary relations is associative, but as a rule not commutative.

A binary relation in is said to be 1) reflexive if ; 2) transitive if ; 3) symmetric if ; and 4) anti-symmetric if . If a binary relation has some of the properties 1), 2), 3) or 4), the inverse relation has these properties as well. The binary relation is said to be functional if .

The most important types of binary relations are equivalences, order relations (total and partial), and functional relations (cf. Equivalence; Order relation; Functional relation).

How to Cite This Entry:
Binary relation. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This article was adapted from an original article by D.M. Smirnov (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article