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In algebra, a field *k* is **perfect** if any one of the following equivalent conditions holds:

- Every irreducible polynomial over
*k*has no multiple roots in any field extension*F/k*. - Every irreducible polynomial over
*k*has non-zero formal derivative. - Every irreducible polynomial over
*k*is separable. - Every finite extension of
*k*is separable. - Every algebraic extension of
*k*is separable. - Either
*k*has characteristic 0, or, when*k*has characteristic*p*> 0, every element of*k*is a*p*th power. - Either
*k*has characteristic 0, or, when*k*has characteristic*p*> 0, the Frobenius endomorphism*x*↦*x*^{p}is an automorphism of*k*. - The separable closure of
*k*is algebraically closed. - Every reduced commutative
*k*-algebra*A*is a separable algebra; i.e., is reduced for every field extension*F*/*k*. (see below)

Otherwise, *k* is called **imperfect**.

In particular, all fields of characteristic zero and all finite fields are perfect.

Perfect fields are significant because Galois theory over these fields becomes simpler, since the general Galois assumption of field extensions being separable is automatically satisfied over these fields (see third condition above).

Another important property of perfect fields is that they admit Witt vectors.

More generally, a ring of characteristic *p* (*p* a prime) is called **perfect** if the Frobenius endomorphism is an automorphism.^{[1]} (When restricted to integral domains, this is equivalent to the above condition "every element of *k* is a *p*th power".)

Examples of perfect fields are:

- every field of characteristic zero, so and every finite extension, and ;
^{[2]} - every finite field ;
^{[3]} - every algebraically closed field;
- the union of a set of perfect fields totally ordered by extension;
- fields algebraic over a perfect field.

Most fields that are encountered in practice are perfect. The imperfect case arises mainly in algebraic geometry in characteristic *p* > 0. Every imperfect field is necessarily transcendental over its prime subfield (the minimal subfield), because the latter is perfect. An example of an imperfect field is the field , since the Frobenius endomorphism sends and therefore is not surjective. This field embeds into the perfect field

called its **perfection**. Imperfect fields cause technical difficulties because irreducible polynomials can become reducible in the algebraic closure of the base field. For example,^{[4]} consider for an imperfect field of characteristic and *a* not a *p*-th power in *k*. Then in its algebraic closure , the following equality holds:

where *b*^{p} = *a* and such *b* exists in this algebraic closure. Geometrically, this means that does not define an affine plane curve in .

Any finitely generated field extension *K* over a perfect field *k* is separably generated, i.e. admits a separating transcendence base, that is, a transcendence base Γ such that *K* is separably algebraic over *k*(Γ).^{[5]}

One of the equivalent conditions says that, in characteristic *p*, a field adjoined with all *p*^{r}-th roots (*r* ≥ 1) is perfect; it is called the **perfect closure** of *k* and usually denoted by .

The perfect closure can be used in a test for separability. More precisely, a commutative *k*-algebra *A* is separable if and only if is reduced.^{[6]}

In terms of universal properties, the **perfect closure** of a ring *A* of characteristic *p* is a perfect ring *A _{p}* of characteristic

The **perfection** of a ring *A* of characteristic *p* is the dual notion (though this term is sometimes used for the perfect closure). In other words, the perfection *R*(*A*) of *A* is a perfect ring of characteristic *p* together with a map *θ* : *R*(*A*) → *A* such that for any perfect ring *B* of characteristic *p* equipped with a map *φ* : *B* → *A*, there is a unique map *f* : *B* → *R*(*A*) such that *φ* factors through *θ* (i.e. *φ* = *θf*). The perfection of *A* may be constructed as follows. Consider the projective system

where the transition maps are the Frobenius endomorphism. The inverse limit of this system is *R*(*A*) and consists of sequences (*x*_{0}, *x*_{1}, ... ) of elements of *A* such that for all *i*. The map *θ* : *R*(*A*) → *A* sends (*x _{i}*) to

- p-ring
- Perfect ring
- Quasi-finite field

**^**Serre 1979, Section II.4**^**Examples of fields of characteristic zero include the field of rational numbers, the field of real numbers or the field of complex numbers.**^**Any finite field of order*q*may be denoted , where*q*=*p*^{k}for some prime*p*and positive integer*k*.**^**Milne, James.*Elliptic Curves*(PDF). p. 6.**^**Matsumura, Theorem 26.2**^**Cohn 2003, Theorem 11.6.10**^**Bourbaki 2003, Section V.5.1.4, page 111**^**Brinon & Conrad 2009, section 4.2

- Bourbaki, Nicolas (2003),
*Algebra II*, Springer, ISBN 978-3-540-00706-7 - Brinon, Olivier; Conrad, Brian (2009),
*CMI Summer School notes on p-adic Hodge theory*(PDF), retrieved 2010-02-05 - Cohn, P.M. (2003),
*Basic Algebra: Groups, Rings and Fields* - Lang, Serge (2002),
*Algebra*, Graduate Texts in Mathematics, vol. 211 (Revised third ed.), New York: Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-0-387-95385-4, MR 1878556, Zbl 0984.00001 - Matsumura, Hideyuki (2003),
*Commutative ring theory*, Translated from the Japanese by M. Reid. Cambridge Studies in Advanced Mathematics, vol. 8 (2nd ed.) - Serre, Jean-Pierre (1979),
*Local fields*, Graduate Texts in Mathematics, vol. 67 (2 ed.), Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-0-387-90424-5, MR 0554237

- "Perfect field",
*Encyclopedia of Mathematics*, EMS Press, 2001 [1994]