In geometry, a diagonal is a line segment joining two vertices of a polygon or polyhedron, when those vertices are not on the same edge. Informally, any sloping line is called diagonal. The word diagonal derives from the ancient Greek διαγώνιος diagonios,[1] "from angle to angle" (from διά- dia-, "through", "across" and γωνία gonia, "angle", related to gony "knee"); it was used by both Strabo[2] and Euclid[3] to refer to a line connecting two vertices of a rhombus or cuboid,[4] and later adopted into Latin as diagonus ("slanting line").

The diagonals of a cube with side length 1. AC' (shown in blue) is a space diagonal with length , while AC (shown in red) is a face diagonal and has length .

In matrix algebra, the diagonal of a square matrix consists of the entries on the line from the top left corner to the bottom right corner.

There are also other, non-mathematical uses.

Non-mathematical usesEdit

A stand of basic scaffolding on a house construction site, with diagonal braces to maintain its structure

In engineering, a diagonal brace is a beam used to brace a rectangular structure (such as scaffolding) to withstand strong forces pushing into it; although called a diagonal, due to practical considerations diagonal braces are often not connected to the corners of the rectangle.

Diagonal pliers are wire-cutting pliers defined by the cutting edges of the jaws intersects the joint rivet at an angle or "on a diagonal", hence the name.

A diagonal lashing is a type of lashing used to bind spars or poles together applied so that the lashings cross over the poles at an angle.

In association football, the diagonal system of control is the method referees and assistant referees use to position themselves in one of the four quadrants of the pitch.

The diagonal is a common measurement of display size.


As applied to a polygon, a diagonal is a line segment joining any two non-consecutive vertices. Therefore, a quadrilateral has two diagonals, joining opposite pairs of vertices. For any convex polygon, all the diagonals are inside the polygon, but for re-entrant polygons, some diagonals are outside of the polygon.

Any n-sided polygon (n ≥ 3), convex or concave, has   diagonals, as each vertex has diagonals to all other vertices except itself and the two adjacent vertices, or n − 3 diagonals, and each diagonal is shared by two vertices.

Sides Diagonals
3 0
4 2
5 5
6 9
7 14
8 20
9 27
10 35
Sides Diagonals
11 44
12 54
13 65
14 77
15 90
16 104
17 119
18 135
Sides Diagonals
19 152
20 170
21 189
22 209
23 230
24 252
25 275
26 299
Sides Diagonals
27 324
28 350
29 377
30 405
31 434
32 464
33 495
34 527
Sides Diagonals
35 560
36 594
37 629
38 665
39 702
40 740
41 779
42 819

Regions formed by diagonalsEdit

In a convex polygon, if no three diagonals are concurrent at a single point in the interior, the number of regions that the diagonals divide the interior into is given by


For n-gons with n=3, 4, ... the number of regions is[5]

1, 4, 11, 25, 50, 91, 154, 246...

This is OEIS sequence A006522.[6]

Intersections of diagonalsEdit

If no three diagonals of a convex polygon are concurrent at a point in the interior, the number of interior intersections of diagonals is given by  .[7][8] This holds, for example, for any regular polygon with an odd number of sides. The formula follows from the fact that each intersection is uniquely determined by the four endpoints of the two intersecting diagonals: the number of intersections is thus the number of combinations of the n vertices four at a time.

Regular polygonsEdit

There exist separate formulae for calculating the length of the longest diagonal in regular polygons with an even or odd number of sides.

In an even-sided regular polygon with n sides and side length a, the length of the longest diagonal is equivalent to the diameter of its circumcircle because the long diagonals all intersect each other at the polygon's center. This is given by the following formula.


The length of the longest diagonal of any odd-sided regular n-sided polygon (n ≥ 5) with side length a is given by the following formula.[9]


The length of a polygon's shortest diagonal can also be calculated for all polygons (n ≥ 4) with the following formula.[10] As the number of sides approaches infinity, the shortest diagonal approaches 2a.


These are not applicable for a triangle which has no diagonals.
Special cases include:

A square has two diagonals of equal length, which intersect at the center of the square. The ratio of a diagonal to a side is  

A regular pentagon has five diagonals all of the same length. The ratio of a diagonal to a side is the golden ratio,  

A regular hexagon has nine diagonals: the six shorter ones are equal to each other in length; the three longer ones are equal to each other in length and intersect each other at the center of the hexagon. The ratio of a long diagonal to a side is 2, and the ratio of a short diagonal to a side is  .

A regular heptagon has 14 diagonals. The seven shorter ones equal each other, and the seven longer ones equal each other. The reciprocal of the side equals the sum of the reciprocals of a short and a long diagonal.

In general a regular n-gon has   distinct diagonals in length, which follows the pattern 1,1,2,2,3,3... starting from a square.


A polyhedron (a solid object in three-dimensional space, bounded by two-dimensional faces) may have two different types of diagonals: face diagonals on the various faces, connecting non-adjacent vertices on the same face; and space diagonals, entirely in the interior of the polyhedron (except for the endpoints on the vertices).

Just as a triangle has no diagonals, so also a tetrahedron (with four triangular faces) has no face diagonals and no space diagonals.

A cuboid has two diagonals on each of the six faces and four space diagonals.


For a square matrix, the diagonal (or main diagonal or principal diagonal) is the diagonal line of entries running from the top-left corner to the bottom-right corner.[11][12][13] For a matrix   with row index specified by   and column index specified by  , these would be entries   with  . For example, the identity matrix can be defined as having entries of 1 on the main diagonal and zeroes elsewhere:


The top-right to bottom-left diagonal is sometimes described as the minor diagonal or antidiagonal.

The off-diagonal entries are those not on the main diagonal. A diagonal matrix is one whose off-diagonal entries are all zero.[14][15]

A superdiagonal entry is one that is directly above and to the right of the main diagonal.[16][17] Just as diagonal entries are those   with  , the superdiagonal entries are those with  . For example, the non-zero entries of the following matrix all lie in the superdiagonal:


Likewise, a subdiagonal entry is one that is directly below and to the left of the main diagonal, that is, an entry   with  .[18] General matrix diagonals can be specified by an index   measured relative to the main diagonal: the main diagonal has  ; the superdiagonal has  ; the subdiagonal has  ; and in general, the  -diagonal consists of the entries   with  .


By analogy, the subset of the Cartesian product X×X of any set X with itself, consisting of all pairs (x,x), is called the diagonal, and is the graph of the equality relation on X or equivalently the graph of the identity function from X to X. This plays an important part in geometry; for example, the fixed points of a mapping F from X to itself may be obtained by intersecting the graph of F with the diagonal.

In geometric studies, the idea of intersecting the diagonal with itself is common, not directly, but by perturbing it within an equivalence class. This is related at a deep level with the Euler characteristic and the zeros of vector fields. For example, the circle S1 has Betti numbers 1, 1, 0, 0, 0, and therefore Euler characteristic 0. A geometric way of expressing this is to look at the diagonal on the two-torus S1xS1 and observe that it can move off itself by the small motion (θ, θ) to (θ, θ + ε). In general, the intersection number of the graph of a function with the diagonal may be computed using homology via the Lefschetz fixed-point theorem; the self-intersection of the diagonal is the special case of the identity function.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary
  2. ^ Strabo, Geography 2.1.36–37
  3. ^ Euclid, Elements book 11, proposition 28
  4. ^ Euclid, Elements book 11, proposition 38
  5. ^ Weisstein, Eric W. "Polygon Diagonal." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource. http://mathworld.wolfram.com/PolygonDiagonal.html
  6. ^ Sloane, N. J. A. (ed.). "Sequence A006522". The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. OEIS Foundation.
  7. ^ Poonen, Bjorn; Rubinstein, Michael. "The number of intersection points made by the diagonals of a regular polygon". SIAM J. Discrete Math. 11 (1998), no. 1, 135–156; link to a version on Poonen's website
  8. ^ [1], beginning at 2:10
  9. ^ "Murderous Maths: The LOngest Diagonal Formula!".
  10. ^ "Length of Diagonal of a n-sided regular polygon". 2 January 2019.
  11. ^ Bronson (1970, p. 2)
  12. ^ Herstein (1964, p. 239)
  13. ^ Nering (1970, p. 38)
  14. ^ Herstein (1964, p. 239)
  15. ^ Nering (1970, p. 38)
  16. ^ Bronson (1970, pp. 203, 205)
  17. ^ Herstein (1964, p. 239)
  18. ^ Cullen (1966, p. 114)


  • Bronson, Richard (1970), Matrix Methods: An Introduction, New York: Academic Press, LCCN 70097490
  • Cullen, Charles G. (1966), Matrices and Linear Transformations, Reading: Addison-Wesley, LCCN 66021267
  • Herstein, I. N. (1964), Topics In Algebra, Waltham: Blaisdell Publishing Company, ISBN 978-1114541016
  • Nering, Evar D. (1970), Linear Algebra and Matrix Theory (2nd ed.), New York: Wiley, LCCN 76091646

External linksEdit

  • Diagonals of a polygon with interactive animation
  • Polygon diagonal from MathWorld.
  • Diagonal of a matrix from MathWorld.