In

mathematics
Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes. These topics are represented in modern mathematics ...

, a zero (also sometimes called a root) of a real-, complex-, or generally vector-valued function $f$, is a member $x$ of the domain
Domain may refer to:
Mathematics
*Domain of a function, the set of input values for which the (total) function is defined
** Domain of definition of a partial function
** Natural domain of a partial function
**Domain of holomorphy of a function
* ...

of $f$ such that $f(x)$ ''vanishes'' at $x$; that is, the function $f$ attains the value of 0 at $x$, or equivalently, $x$ is the solution
Solution may refer to:
* Solution (chemistry), a mixture where one substance is dissolved in another
* Solution (equation), in mathematics
** Numerical solution, in numerical analysis, approximate solutions within specified error bounds
* Solutio ...

to the equation $f(x)\; =\; 0$. A "zero" of a function is thus an input value that produces an output of 0.
A root of a polynomial
In mathematics, a polynomial is an expression consisting of indeterminates (also called variables) and coefficients, that involves only the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and positive-integer powers of variables. An exampl ...

is a zero of the corresponding polynomial function
In mathematics, a polynomial is an expression consisting of indeterminates (also called variables) and coefficients, that involves only the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and positive-integer powers of variables. An exa ...

. The fundamental theorem of algebra shows that any non-zero polynomial
In mathematics, a polynomial is an expression consisting of indeterminates (also called variables) and coefficients, that involves only the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and positive-integer powers of variables. An exampl ...

has a number of roots at most equal to its degree, and that the number of roots and the degree are equal when one considers the complex roots (or more generally, the roots in an algebraically closed extension
In mathematics, a field is algebraically closed if every non-constant polynomial in (the univariate polynomial ring with coefficients in ) has a root in .
Examples
As an example, the field of real numbers is not algebraically closed, because ...

) counted with their multiplicities. For example, the polynomial $f$ of degree two, defined by $f(x)=x^2-5x+6$ has the two roots (or zeros) that are 2 and 3.
$$f(2)=2^2-5\backslash times\; 2+6=\; 0\backslash textf(3)=3^2-5\backslash times\; 3+6=0.$$
If the function maps real numbers to real numbers, then its zeros are the $x$-coordinates of the points where its graph meets the ''x''-axis. An alternative name for such a point $(x,0)$ in this context is an $x$-intercept.
Solution of an equation

Everyequation
In mathematics, an equation is a formula that expresses the equality of two expressions, by connecting them with the equals sign . The word ''equation'' and its cognates in other languages may have subtly different meanings; for example, in F ...

in the unknown
Unknown or The Unknown may refer to:
Film
* ''The Unknown'' (1915 comedy film), a silent boxing film
* ''The Unknown'' (1915 drama film)
* ''The Unknown'' (1927 film), a silent horror film starring Lon Chaney
* ''The Unknown'' (1936 film), a ...

$x$ may be rewritten as
:$f(x)=0$
by regrouping all the terms in the left-hand side. It follows that the solutions of such an equation are exactly the zeros of the function $f$. In other words, a "zero of a function" is precisely a "solution of the equation obtained by equating the function to 0", and the study of zeros of functions is exactly the same as the study of solutions of equations.
Polynomial roots

Every real polynomial of odd degree has an odd number of real roots (counting multiplicities); likewise, a real polynomial of even degree must have an even number of real roots. Consequently, real odd polynomials must have at least one real root (because the smallest odd whole number is 1), whereas even polynomials may have none. This principle can be proven by reference to theintermediate value theorem
In mathematical analysis, the intermediate value theorem states that if f is a continuous function whose domain contains the interval , then it takes on any given value between f(a) and f(b) at some point within the interval.
This has two impor ...

: since polynomial functions are continuous
Continuity or continuous may refer to:
Mathematics
* Continuity (mathematics), the opposing concept to discreteness; common examples include
** Continuous probability distribution or random variable in probability and statistics
** Continuous g ...

, the function value must cross zero, in the process of changing from negative to positive or vice versa (which always happens for odd functions).
Fundamental theorem of algebra

The fundamental theorem of algebra states that every polynomial of degree $n$ has $n$ complex roots, counted with their multiplicities. The non-real roots of polynomials with real coefficients come in conjugate pairs.Vieta's formulas
In mathematics, Vieta's formulas relate the coefficients of a polynomial to sums and products of its roots. They are named after François Viète (more commonly referred to by the Latinised form of his name, "Franciscus Vieta").
Basic formula ...

relate the coefficients of a polynomial to sums and products of its roots.
Computing roots

Computing roots of functions, for examplepolynomial function
In mathematics, a polynomial is an expression consisting of indeterminates (also called variables) and coefficients, that involves only the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and positive-integer powers of variables. An exa ...

s, frequently requires the use of specialised or approximation
An approximation is anything that is intentionally similar but not exactly equal to something else.
Etymology and usage
The word ''approximation'' is derived from Latin ''approximatus'', from ''proximus'' meaning ''very near'' and the prefix ' ...

techniques (e.g., Newton's method
In numerical analysis, Newton's method, also known as the Newton–Raphson method, named after Isaac Newton and Joseph Raphson, is a root-finding algorithm which produces successively better approximations to the roots (or zeroes) of a real- ...

). However, some polynomial functions, including all those of degree no greater than 4, can have all their roots expressed algebraically in terms of their coefficients (for more, see algebraic solution).
Zero set

In various areas of mathematics, the zero set of a function is the set of all its zeros. More precisely, if $f:X\backslash to\backslash mathbb$ is a real-valued function (or, more generally, a function taking values in some additive group), its zero set is $f^(0)$, the inverse image of $\backslash $ in $X$. The term ''zero set'' is generally used when there are infinitely many zeros, and they have some non-trivial topological properties. For example, a level set of a function $f$ is the zero set of $f-c$. The cozero set of $f$ is the complement of the zero set of $f$ (i.e., the subset of $X$ on which $f$ is nonzero). The zero set of alinear map
In mathematics, and more specifically in linear algebra, a linear map (also called a linear mapping, linear transformation, vector space homomorphism, or in some contexts linear function) is a mapping V \to W between two vector spaces that ...

is also called kernel.
Applications

Inalgebraic geometry
Algebraic geometry is a branch of mathematics, classically studying zeros of multivariate polynomials. Modern algebraic geometry is based on the use of abstract algebraic techniques, mainly from commutative algebra, for solving geometrical ...

, the first definition of an algebraic variety
Algebraic varieties are the central objects of study in algebraic geometry, a sub-field of mathematics. Classically, an algebraic variety is defined as the set of solutions of a system of polynomial equations over the real or complex numbers. ...

is through zero sets. Specifically, an affine algebraic set is the intersection
In mathematics, the intersection of two or more objects is another object consisting of everything that is contained in all of the objects simultaneously. For example, in Euclidean geometry, when two lines in a plane are not parallel, thei ...

of the zero sets of several polynomials, in a polynomial ring
In mathematics, especially in the field of algebra, a polynomial ring or polynomial algebra is a ring (which is also a commutative algebra) formed from the set of polynomials in one or more indeterminates (traditionally also called variables ...

$k\backslash left;\; href="/html/ALL/l/\_1,\backslash ldots,x\_n\backslash right.html"\; ;"title="\_1,\backslash ldots,x\_n\backslash right">\_1,\backslash ldots,x\_n\backslash right$analysis
Analysis ( : analyses) is the process of breaking a complex topic or substance into smaller parts in order to gain a better understanding of it. The technique has been applied in the study of mathematics and logic since before Aristotle (3 ...

and geometry
Geometry (; ) is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is concerned with properties of space such as the distance, shape, size, and relative position of figures. A mathematician who works in the field of geometry is c ...

, any closed subset of $\backslash mathbb^n$ is the zero set of a smooth function
In mathematical analysis, the smoothness of a function is a property measured by the number of continuous derivatives it has over some domain, called ''differentiability class''. At the very minimum, a function could be considered smooth if ...

defined on all of $\backslash mathbb^n$. This extends to any smooth manifold as a corollary of paracompactness.
In differential geometry
Differential geometry is a mathematical discipline that studies the geometry of smooth shapes and smooth spaces, otherwise known as smooth manifolds. It uses the techniques of differential calculus, integral calculus, linear algebra and mult ...

, zero sets are frequently used to define manifold
In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point. More precisely, an n-dimensional manifold, or ''n-manifold'' for short, is a topological space with the property that each point has a n ...

s. An important special case is the case that $f$ is a smooth function
In mathematical analysis, the smoothness of a function is a property measured by the number of continuous derivatives it has over some domain, called ''differentiability class''. At the very minimum, a function could be considered smooth if ...

from $\backslash mathbb^p$ to $\backslash mathbb^n$. If zero is a regular value of $f$, then the zero set of $f$ is a smooth manifold of dimension $m=p-n$ by the regular value theorem.
For example, the unit $m$-sphere
A sphere () is a geometrical object that is a three-dimensional analogue to a two-dimensional circle. A sphere is the set of points that are all at the same distance from a given point in three-dimensional space.. That given point is the c ...

in $\backslash mathbb^$ is the zero set of the real-valued function $f(x)=\backslash Vert\; x\; \backslash Vert^2-1$.
See also

* Marden's theorem * Root-finding algorithm * Sendov's conjecture * Vanish at infinity * Zero crossing * Zeros and polesReferences

Further reading

* {{MathWorld , title=Root , urlname=Root Elementary mathematics Functions and mappings 0 (number)