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An example of congruence. The two triangles on the left are congruent, while the third is similar to them. The last triangle is neither congruent nor similar to any of the others. Congruence permits alteration of some properties, such as location and orientation, but leaves others unchanged, like distances and angles. The unchanged properties are called invariants.

In geometry, two figures or objects are congruent if they have the same shape and size, or if one has the same shape and size as the mirror image of the other.[1]

More formally, two sets of points are called congruent if, and only if, one can be transformed into the other by an isometry, i.e., a combination of rigid motions, namely a translation, a rotation, and a reflection. This means that either object can be repositioned and reflected (but not resized) so as to coincide precisely with the other object. So two distinct plane figures on a piece of paper are congruent if we can cut them out and then match them up completely. Turning the paper over is permitted.

This diagram illustrates the geometric principle of angle-angle-side triangle congruence: given triangle ABC and triangle A'B'C', triangle ABC is congruent with triangle A'B'C' if and only if: angle CAB is congruent with angle C'A'B', and angle ABC is congruent with angle A'B'C', and BC is congruent with B'C'.

In elementary geometry the word congruent is often used as follows.[2] The word equal is often used in place of congruent for these objects.

  • Two line segments are congruent if they have the same length.
  • Two angles are congruent if they have the same measure.
  • Two circles are congruent if they have the same diameter.

In this sense, two plane figures are congruent implies that their corresponding characteristics are "congruent" or "equal" including not just their corresponding sides and angles, but also their corresponding diagonals, perimeters, and areas.

The related concept of similarity applies if the objects have the same shape but do not necessarily have the same size. (Most definitions consider congruence to be a form of similarity, although a minority require that the objects have different sizes in order to qualify as similar.)