Identity function

Identity function

Ask a question about 'Identity function'
Start a new discussion about 'Identity function'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
In mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, an identity function, also called identity map or identity transformation, is a function
Function (mathematics)
In mathematics, a function associates one quantity, the argument of the function, also known as the input, with another quantity, the value of the function, also known as the output. A function assigns exactly one output to each input. The argument and the value may be real numbers, but they can...

 that always returns the same value that was used as its argument. In terms of equation
An equation is a mathematical statement that asserts the equality of two expressions. In modern notation, this is written by placing the expressions on either side of an equals sign , for examplex + 3 = 5\,asserts that x+3 is equal to 5...

s, the function is given by f(x) = x.


Formally, if M is a set, the identity function f on M is defined to be that function with domain
Domain (mathematics)
In mathematics, the domain of definition or simply the domain of a function is the set of "input" or argument values for which the function is defined...

 and codomain
In mathematics, the codomain or target set of a function is the set into which all of the output of the function is constrained to fall. It is the set in the notation...

 M which satisfies
f(x) = x    for all elements x in M.

In other words, the function assigns to each element x of M the element x of M.

The identity function f on M is often denoted by idM.

In terms of set theory
Set theory
Set theory is the branch of mathematics that studies sets, which are collections of objects. Although any type of object can be collected into a set, set theory is applied most often to objects that are relevant to mathematics...

, where a function is defined as a particular kind of binary relation
Binary relation
In mathematics, a binary relation on a set A is a collection of ordered pairs of elements of A. In other words, it is a subset of the Cartesian product A2 = . More generally, a binary relation between two sets A and B is a subset of...

, the identity function is given by the identity relation, or diagonal of M.

Algebraic property

If f : M → N is any function, then we have f o idM = f = idN o f (where "o" denotes function composition
Function composition
In mathematics, function composition is the application of one function to the results of another. For instance, the functions and can be composed by computing the output of g when it has an argument of f instead of x...

). In particular, idM is the identity element
Identity element
In mathematics, an identity element is a special type of element of a set with respect to a binary operation on that set. It leaves other elements unchanged when combined with them...

 of the monoid
In abstract algebra, a branch of mathematics, a monoid is an algebraic structure with a single associative binary operation and an identity element. Monoids are studied in semigroup theory as they are naturally semigroups with identity. Monoids occur in several branches of mathematics; for...

 of all functions from M to M.

Since the identity element of a monoid is unique, one can alternately define the identity function on M to be this identity element. Such a definition generalizes to the concept of an identity morphism in category theory
Category theory
Category theory is an area of study in mathematics that examines in an abstract way the properties of particular mathematical concepts, by formalising them as collections of objects and arrows , where these collections satisfy certain basic conditions...

, where the endomorphism
In mathematics, an endomorphism is a morphism from a mathematical object to itself. For example, an endomorphism of a vector space V is a linear map ƒ: V → V, and an endomorphism of a group G is a group homomorphism ƒ: G → G. In general, we can talk about...

s of M need not be functions.


  • The identity function is a linear operator, when applied to vector space
    Vector space
    A vector space is a mathematical structure formed by a collection of vectors: objects that may be added together and multiplied by numbers, called scalars in this context. Scalars are often taken to be real numbers, but one may also consider vector spaces with scalar multiplication by complex...

  • The identity function on the positive integer
    The integers are formed by the natural numbers together with the negatives of the non-zero natural numbers .They are known as Positive and Negative Integers respectively...

    s is a completely multiplicative function
    Completely multiplicative function
    In number theory, functions of positive integers which respect products are important and are called completely multiplicative functions or totally multiplicative functions. Especially in number theory, a weaker condition is also important, respecting only products of coprime numbers, and such...

     (essentially multiplication by 1), considered in number theory
    Number theory
    Number theory is a branch of pure mathematics devoted primarily to the study of the integers. Number theorists study prime numbers as well...

  • In an n-dimensional vector space
    Vector space
    A vector space is a mathematical structure formed by a collection of vectors: objects that may be added together and multiplied by numbers, called scalars in this context. Scalars are often taken to be real numbers, but one may also consider vector spaces with scalar multiplication by complex...

     the identity function is represented by the identity matrix
    Identity matrix
    In linear algebra, the identity matrix or unit matrix of size n is the n×n square matrix with ones on the main diagonal and zeros elsewhere. It is denoted by In, or simply by I if the size is immaterial or can be trivially determined by the context...

     In, regardless of the basis
    Basis (linear algebra)
    In linear algebra, a basis is a set of linearly independent vectors that, in a linear combination, can represent every vector in a given vector space or free module, or, more simply put, which define a "coordinate system"...

  • In a metric space
    Metric space
    In mathematics, a metric space is a set where a notion of distance between elements of the set is defined.The metric space which most closely corresponds to our intuitive understanding of space is the 3-dimensional Euclidean space...

     the identity is trivially an isometry
    In mathematics, an isometry is a distance-preserving map between metric spaces. Geometric figures which can be related by an isometry are called congruent.Isometries are often used in constructions where one space is embedded in another space...

    . An object without any symmetry
    Symmetry generally conveys two primary meanings. The first is an imprecise sense of harmonious or aesthetically pleasing proportionality and balance; such that it reflects beauty or perfection...

     has as symmetry group
    Symmetry group
    The symmetry group of an object is the group of all isometries under which it is invariant with composition as the operation...

    the trivial group only containing this isometry (symmetry type C1).