Coerciveness inequality

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An inequality providing a lower bound for a certain bilinear form, or providing an upper bound for the norm of a solution of a certain elliptic boundary value problem, in terms of the coefficients of the elliptic equation and of the boundary data. Let

be a uniformly elliptic operator in a region in , with coefficients ; let be a subregion of , and suppose that in some neighbourhood of the boundary of one has differential operators , , of orders , the characteristics of which are not tangent to at any point of . Then, in some neighbourhood of , there exist differential operators of orders , , such that


for all in . Here denotes the scalar product in .

The form

is called a coercive form on a space , , if there exist constants and such that


for all . Here is the Sobolev space and is the subspace of consisting of all elements with compact support, i.e. elements vanishing in a neighbourhood of the boundary of . Inequality (2) is a coerciveness inequality for the form . If (2) remains valid with , then is said to be strongly coercive.

If a solution of the equation satisfies the conditions , , on , then one has an inequality


for some constants . If a solution of the equation satisfies conditions on , , then instead of (3) one has the inequality


This inequality provides an estimate for the norm of the solution of the equation in the Sobolev space in terms of its norm in and of the norms of and , in the appropriate spaces. Inequality (4) is a coerciveness inequality for the boundary value problem for an elliptic equation.

Using inequality (4) one obtains the more general inequality

Coerciveness inequalities play an important role in the investigation of coercive boundary value problems and in proofs of the smoothness of solutions of elliptic equations; they are particularly important in analyticity proofs for solutions of analytic elliptic equations [2].


[1] S. Agmon, "Lectures on elliptic boundary value problems" , v. Nostrand (1965)
[2] C.B. Morrey, L. Nirenberg, "On the analyticity of the solutions of linear elliptic systems of partial differential equations" Comm. Pure Appl. Math. , 10 : 2 (1957) pp. 271–290


Inequalities such as (3), (4), providing upper bounds for elliptic boundary value problems, are better known as boundary estimates for elliptic boundary value problems, instead of coerciveness inequalities. Lower bounds for bilinear forms are frequently encountered in the theory of variational inequalities (see also Variational equations). See also Coercive boundary value problem.

The functions in (1) are obtained from the functions by integrating the expression by parts. Clearly, the restriction in (2) is inessential.

How to Cite This Entry:
Coerciveness inequality. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This article was adapted from an original article by A.I. Yanushauskas (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article