Pointed space


In mathematics, a pointed space or based space is a topological space with a distinguished point, the basepoint. The distinguished point is just simply one particular point, picked out from the space, and given a name, such as that remains unchanged during subsequent discussion, and is kept track of during all operations.

Maps of pointed spaces (based maps) are continuous maps preserving basepoints, i.e., a map between a pointed space with basepoint and a pointed space with basepoint is a based map if it is continuous with respect to the topologies of and and if This is usually denoted

Pointed spaces are important in algebraic topology, particularly in homotopy theory, where many constructions, such as the fundamental group, depend on a choice of basepoint.

The pointed set concept is less important; it is anyway the case of a pointed discrete space.

Pointed spaces are often taken as a special case of the relative topology, where the subset is a single point. Thus, much of homotopy theory is usually developed on pointed spaces, and then moved to relative topologies in algebraic topology.

Category of pointed spaces


The class of all pointed spaces forms a category Top  with basepoint preserving continuous maps as morphisms. Another way to think about this category is as the comma category, (  Top) where   is any one point space and Top is the category of topological spaces. (This is also called a coslice category denoted  Top.) Objects in this category are continuous maps   Such maps can be thought of as picking out a basepoint in   Morphisms in (  Top) are morphisms in Top for which the following diagram commutes:


It is easy to see that commutativity of the diagram is equivalent to the condition that   preserves basepoints.

As a pointed space,   is a zero object in Top , while it is only a terminal object in Top.

There is a forgetful functor Top    Top which "forgets" which point is the basepoint. This functor has a left adjoint which assigns to each topological space   the disjoint union of   and a one-point space   whose single element is taken to be the basepoint.

Operations on pointed spaces

  • A subspace of a pointed space   is a topological subspace   which shares its basepoint with   so that the inclusion map is basepoint preserving.
  • One can form the quotient of a pointed space   under any equivalence relation. The basepoint of the quotient is the image of the basepoint in   under the quotient map.
  • One can form the product of two pointed spaces     as the topological product   with  serving as the basepoint.
  • The coproduct in the category of pointed spaces is the wedge sum, which can be thought of as the 'one-point union' of spaces.
  • The smash product of two pointed spaces is essentially the quotient of the direct product and the wedge sum. We would like to say that the smash product turns the category of pointed spaces into a symmetric monoidal category with the pointed 0-sphere as the unit object, but this is false for general spaces: the associativity condition might fail. But it is true for some more restricted categories of spaces, such as compactly generated weak Hausdorff ones.
  • The reduced suspension   of a pointed space   is (up to a homeomorphism) the smash product of   and the pointed circle  
  • The reduced suspension is a functor from the category of pointed spaces to itself. This functor is left adjoint to the functor   taking a pointed space   to its loop space  .

See also

  • Category of groups – category in mathematics
  • Category of metric spaces – mathematical category with metric spaces as its objects and distance-non-increasing maps as its morphisms
  • Category of sets – Category in mathematics where the objects are sets
  • Category of topological spaces – category whose objects are topological spaces and whose morphisms are continuous maps
  • Category of topological vector spaces – Topological category


  • Gamelin, Theodore W.; Greene, Robert Everist (1999) [1983]. Introduction to Topology (second ed.). Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-40680-6.
  • Mac Lane, Saunders (September 1998). Categories for the Working Mathematician (second ed.). Springer. ISBN 0-387-98403-8.
  • mathoverflow discussion on several base points and groupoids