In elementary geometry
, the property of being perpendicular (perpendicularity) is the relationship between two line
s which meet at a right angle
s). The property extends to other related geometric object
A line is said to be perpendicular to another line if the two lines intersect
at a right angle. Explicitly, a first line is perpendicular to a second line if (1) the two lines meet; and (2) at the point of intersection the straight angle
on one side of the first line is cut by the second line into two congruent angle
s. Perpendicularity can be shown to be symmetric
, meaning if a first line is perpendicular to a second line, then the second line is also perpendicular to the first. For this reason, we may speak of two lines as being perpendicular (to each other) without specifying an order.
Perpendicularity easily extends to segment
s and ray
s. For example, a line segment
is perpendicular to a line segment
if, when each is extended in both directions to form an infinite line, these two resulting lines are perpendicular in the sense above. In symbols,
means line segment AB is perpendicular to line segment CD. For information regarding the perpendicular symbol see Up tack
A line is said to be perpendicular to a plane
if it is perpendicular to every line in the plane that it intersects. This definition depends on the definition of perpendicularity between lines.
Two planes in space are said to be perpendicular if the dihedral angle
at which they meet is a right angle (90 degrees).
Perpendicularity is one particular instance of the more general mathematical concept of orthogonality
; perpendicularity is the orthogonality of classical geometric objects. Thus, in advanced mathematics, the word "perpendicular" is sometimes used to describe much more complicated geometric orthogonality conditions, such as that between a surface and its normal
Foot of a perpendicular
The word foot is frequently used in connection with perpendiculars. This usage is exemplified in the top diagram, above, and its caption. The diagram can be in any orientation. The foot is not necessarily at the bottom.
More precisely, let be a point and a line. If is the point of intersection of and the unique line through that is perpendicular to , then is called the ''foot'' of this perpendicular through .
Construction of the perpendicular
To make the perpendicular to the line AB through the point P using compass-and-straightedge construction
, proceed as follows (see figure left):
* Step 1 (red): construct a circle
with center at P to create points A' and B' on the line AB, which are equidistant
* Step 2 (green): construct circles centered at A' and B' having equal radius. Let Q and P be the points of intersection of these two circles.
* Step 3 (blue): connect Q and P to construct the desired perpendicular PQ.
To prove that the PQ is perpendicular to AB, use the SSS congruence theorem
for ' and QPB' to conclude that angles OPA' and OPB' are equal. Then use the SAS congruence theorem
for triangles OPA' and OPB' to conclude that angles POA and POB are equal.
To make the perpendicular to the line g at or through the point P using Thales's theorem
, see the animation at right.
The Pythagorean theorem
can be used as the basis of methods of constructing right angles. For example, by counting links, three pieces of chain can be made with lengths in the ratio 3:4:5. These can be laid out to form a triangle, which will have a right angle opposite its longest side. This method is useful for laying out gardens and fields, where the dimensions are large, and great accuracy is not needed. The chains can be used repeatedly whenever required.
In relationship to parallel lines
If two lines (''a'' and ''b'') are both perpendicular to a third line (''c''), all of the angles formed along the third line are right angles. Therefore, in Euclidean geometry
, any two lines that are both perpendicular to a third line are parallel
to each other, because of the parallel postulate
. Conversely, if one line is perpendicular to a second line, it is also perpendicular to any line parallel to that second line.
In the figure at the right, all of the orange-shaded angles are congruent to each other and all of the green-shaded angles are congruent to each other, because vertical angles
are congruent and alternate interior angles formed by a transversal cutting parallel lines are congruent. Therefore, if lines ''a'' and ''b'' are parallel, any of the following conclusions leads to all of the others:
* One of the angles in the diagram is a right angle.
* One of the orange-shaded angles is congruent to one of the green-shaded angles.
* Line ''c'' is perpendicular to line ''a''.
* Line ''c'' is perpendicular to line ''b''.
In computing distances
The distance from a point to a line
is the distance to the nearest point on that line. That is the point at which a segment from it to the given point is perpendicular to the line.
Likewise, the distance from a point to a curve
is measured by a line segment that is perpendicular to a tangent line
to the curve at the nearest point on the curve.
fits a line to data points by minimizing the sum of squared perpendicular distances from the data points to the line.
The distance from a point to a plane
is measured as the length from the point along a segment that is perpendicular to the plane, meaning that it is perpendicular to all lines in the plane that pass through the nearest point in the plane to the given point.
Graph of functions
In the two-dimensional plane, right angles can be formed by two intersected lines if the product
of their slopes
equals −1. Thus defining two linear function
s: and , the graphs of the functions will be perpendicular and will make four right angles where the lines intersect if . However, this method cannot be used if the slope is zero or undefined (the line is parallel to an axis).
For another method, let the two linear functions be: and . The lines will be perpendicular if and only if . This method is simplified from the dot product
(or, more generally, the inner product
) of vector
s. In particular, two vectors are considered orthogonal if their inner product is zero.
In circles and other conics
of a circle
is perpendicular to the tangent line
to that circle at the point where the diameter intersects the circle.
A line segment through a circle's center bisecting a chord
is perpendicular to the chord.
If the intersection of any two perpendicular chords divides one chord into lengths ''a'' and ''b'' and divides the other chord into lengths ''c'' and ''d'', then equals the square of the diameter.
The sum of the squared lengths of any two perpendicular chords intersecting at a given point is the same as that of any other two perpendicular chords intersecting at the same point, and is given by 8''r''2
(where ''r'' is the circle's radius and ''p'' is the distance from the center point to the point of intersection).
[''College Mathematics Journal'' 29(4), September 1998, p. 331, problem 635.]
states that two lines both through the same point on a circle but going through opposite endpoints of a diameter are perpendicular. This is equivalent to saying that any diameter of a circle subtends a right angle at any point on the circle, except the two endpoints of the diameter.
The major and minor axes
of an ellipse
are perpendicular to each other and to the tangent lines to the ellipse at the points where the axes intersect the ellipse.
The major axis of an ellipse is perpendicular to the directrix
and to each latus rectum
In a parabola
, the axis of symmetry is perpendicular to each of the latus rectum, the directrix, and the tangent line at the point where the axis intersects the parabola.
From a point on the tangent line to a parabola's vertex, the other tangent line to the parabola
is perpendicular to the line from that point through the parabola's focus
The orthoptic property
of a parabola is that If two tangents to the parabola are perpendicular to each other, then they intersect on the directrix. Conversely, two tangents which intersect on the directrix are perpendicular. This implies that, seen from any point on its directrix, any parabola subtends a right angle.
The transverse axis
of a hyperbola
is perpendicular to the conjugate axis and to each directrix.
The product of the perpendicular distances from a point P on a hyperbola or on its conjugate hyperbola to the asymptotes is a constant independent of the location of P.
A rectangular hyperbola
s that are perpendicular to each other. It has an eccentricity
The legs of a right triangle
are perpendicular to each other.
of a triangle
are perpendicular to their respective bases
. The perpendicular bisector
s of the sides also play a prominent role in triangle geometry.
The Euler line
of an isosceles triangle
is perpendicular to the triangle's base.
The Droz-Farny line theorem
concerns a property of two perpendicular lines intersecting at a triangle's orthocenter
concerns the relationship of line segments through a vertex
and perpendicular to any line tangent
to the triangle's incircle
In a square
or other rectangle
, all pairs of adjacent sides are perpendicular. A right trapezoid
is a trapezoid
that has two pairs of adjacent sides that are perpendicular.
Each of the four maltitude
s of a quadrilateral
is a perpendicular to a side through the midpoint
of the opposite side.
An orthodiagonal quadrilateral
is a quadrilateral whose diagonal
s are perpendicular. These include the square
, the rhombus
, and the kite
. By Brahmagupta's theorem
, in an orthodiagonal quadrilateral that is also cyclic
, a line through the midpoint of one side and through the intersection point of the diagonals is perpendicular to the opposite side.
By van Aubel's theorem
, if squares are constructed externally on the sides of a quadrilateral, the line segments connecting the centers of opposite squares are perpendicular and equal in length.
Lines in three dimensions
Up to three lines in three-dimensional space
can be pairwise perpendicular, as exemplified by the ''x, y'', and ''z'' axes of a three-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system
* Tangential and normal components
with interactive animation.