The segments of a closed polygonal chain are called its edges or sides. The points where two edges meet are the polygon's vertices or corners. An n-gon is a polygon with n sides; for example, a triangle is a 3-gon.
A simple polygon is one which does not intersect itself. More precisely, the only allowed intersections among the line segments that make up the polygon are the shared endpoints of consecutive segments in the polygonal chain. A simple polygon is the boundary of a region of the plane that is called a solid polygon. The interior of a solid polygon is its body, also known as a polygonal region or polygonal area. In contexts where one is concerned only with simple and solid polygons, a polygon may refer only to a simple polygon or to a solid polygon.
The word polygon derives from the Greek adjective πολύς (polús) 'much', 'many' and γωνία (gōnía) 'corner' or 'angle'. It has been suggested that γόνυ (gónu) 'knee' may be the origin of gon.
Number of sides
Polygons are primarily classified by the number of sides.
Convexity and intersection
Polygons may be characterized by their convexity or type of non-convexity:
Convex: any line drawn through the polygon (and not tangent to an edge or corner) meets its boundary exactly twice. As a consequence, all its interior angles are less than 180°. Equivalently, any line segment with endpoints on the boundary passes through only interior points between its endpoints. This condition is true for polygons in any geometry, not just Euclidean.
Non-convex: a line may be found which meets its boundary more than twice. Equivalently, there exists a line segment between two boundary points that passes outside the polygon.
Simple: the boundary of the polygon does not cross itself. All convex polygons are simple.
Concave: Non-convex and simple. There is at least one interior angle greater than 180°.
Star-shaped: the whole interior is visible from at least one point, without crossing any edge. The polygon must be simple, and may be convex or concave. All convex polygons are star-shaped.
Self-intersecting: the boundary of the polygon crosses itself. The term complex is sometimes used in contrast to simple, but this usage risks confusion with the idea of a complex polygon as one which exists in the complex Hilbert plane consisting of two complex dimensions.
Star polygon: a polygon which self-intersects in a regular way. A polygon cannot be both a star and star-shaped.
The property of regularity may be defined in other ways: a polygon is regular if and only if it is both isogonal and isotoxal, or equivalently it is both cyclic and equilateral. A non-convex regular polygon is called a regular star polygon.
Rectilinear: the polygon's sides meet at right angles, i.e. all its interior angles are 90 or 270 degrees.
Monotone with respect to a given line L: every line orthogonal to L intersects the polygon not more than twice.
Any polygon has as many corners as it has sides. Each corner has several angles. The two most important ones are:
Interior angle – The sum of the interior angles of a simple n-gon is (n − 2) × πradians or (n − 2) × 180degrees. This is because any simple n-gon ( having n sides ) can be considered to be made up of (n − 2) triangles, each of which has an angle sum of π radians or 180 degrees. The measure of any interior angle of a convex regular n-gon is radians or degrees. The interior angles of regular star polygons were first studied by Poinsot, in the same paper in which he describes the four regular star polyhedra: for a regular -gon (a p-gon with central density q), each interior angle is radians or degrees.
Exterior angle – The exterior angle is the supplementary angle to the interior angle. Tracing around a convex n-gon, the angle "turned" at a corner is the exterior or external angle. Tracing all the way around the polygon makes one full turn, so the sum of the exterior angles must be 360°. This argument can be generalized to concave simple polygons, if external angles that turn in the opposite direction are subtracted from the total turned. Tracing around an n-gon in general, the sum of the exterior angles (the total amount one rotates at the vertices) can be any integer multiple d of 360°, e.g. 720° for a pentagram and 0° for an angular "eight" or antiparallelogram, where d is the density or turning number of the polygon.
In this section, the vertices of the polygon under consideration are taken to be in order. For convenience in some formulas, the notation (xn, yn) = (x0, y0) will also be used.
If the polygon is non-self-intersecting (that is, simple), the signed area is
The signed area depends on the ordering of the vertices and of the orientation of the plane. Commonly, the positive orientation is defined by the (counterclockwise) rotation that maps the positive x-axis to the positive y-axis. If the vertices are ordered counterclockwise (that is, according to positive orientation), the signed area is positive; otherwise, it is negative. In either case, the area formula is correct in absolute value. This is commonly called the shoelace formula or surveyor's formula.
The area A of a simple polygon can also be computed if the lengths of the sides, a1, a2, ..., an and the exterior angles, θ1, θ2, ..., θn are known, from:
If the polygon can be drawn on an equally spaced grid such that all its vertices are grid points, Pick's theorem gives a simple formula for the polygon's area based on the numbers of interior and boundary grid points: the former number plus one-half the latter number, minus 1.
For any two simple polygons of equal area, the Bolyai–Gerwien theorem asserts that the first can be cut into polygonal pieces which can be reassembled to form the second polygon.
The lengths of the sides of a polygon do not in general determine its area. However, if the polygon is simple and cyclic then the sides do determine the area. Of all n-gons with given side lengths, the one with the largest area is cyclic. Of all n-gons with a given perimeter, the one with the largest area is regular (and therefore cyclic).
Using the formulas for simple polygons, we allow that particular regions within the polygon may have their area multiplied by a factor which we call the density of the region. For example, the central convex pentagon in the center of a pentagram has density 2. The two triangular regions of a cross-quadrilateral (like a figure 8) have opposite-signed densities, and adding their areas together can give a total area of zero for the whole figure.
Considering the enclosed regions as point sets, we can find the area of the enclosed point set. This corresponds to the area of the plane covered by the polygon or to the area of one or more simple polygons having the same outline as the self-intersecting one. In the case of the cross-quadrilateral, it is treated as two simple triangles.
Using the same convention for vertex coordinates as in the previous section, the coordinates of the centroid of a solid simple polygon are
In these formulas, the signed value of area must be used.
For triangles (n = 3), the centroids of the vertices and of the solid shape are the same, but, in general, this is not true for n > 3. The centroid of the vertex set of a polygon with n vertices has the coordinates
The idea of a polygon has been generalized in various ways. Some of the more important include:
An abstract polygon is an algebraic partially ordered set representing the various elements (sides, vertices, etc.) and their connectivity. A real geometric polygon is said to be a realization of the associated abstract polygon. Depending on the mapping, all the generalizations described here can be realized.
A polyhedron is a three-dimensional solid bounded by flat polygonal faces, analogous to a polygon in two dimensions. The corresponding shapes in four or higher dimensions are called polytopes. (In other conventions, the words polyhedron and polytope are used in any dimension, with the distinction between the two that a polytope is necessarily bounded.)
The word polygon comes from Late Latinpolygōnum (a noun), from Greek πολύγωνον (polygōnon/polugōnon), noun use of neuter of πολύγωνος (polygōnos/polugōnos, the masculine adjective), meaning "many-angled". Individual polygons are named (and sometimes classified) according to the number of sides, combining a Greek-derived numerical prefix with the suffix -gon, e.g. pentagon, dodecagon. The triangle, quadrilateral and nonagon are exceptions.
Beyond decagons (10-sided) and dodecagons (12-sided), mathematicians generally use numerical notation, for example 17-gon and 257-gon.
Exceptions exist for side counts that are easily expressed in verbal form (e.g. 20 and 30), or are used by non-mathematicians. Some special polygons also have their own names; for example the regularstarpentagon is also known as the pentagram.
As with René Descartes's example of the chiliagon, the million-sided polygon has been used as an illustration of a well-defined concept that cannot be visualised. The megagon is also used as an illustration of the convergence of regular polygons to a circle.
To construct the name of a polygon with more than 20 and less than 100 edges, combine the prefixes as follows. The "kai" term applies to 13-gons and higher and was used by Kepler, and advocated by John H. Conway for clarity of concatenated prefix numbers in the naming of quasiregular polyhedra, though not all sources use it.
In computer graphics, a polygon is a primitive used in modelling and rendering. They are defined in a database, containing arrays of vertices (the coordinates of the geometrical vertices, as well as other attributes of the polygon, such as color, shading and texture), connectivity information, and materials.
Any surface is modelled as a tessellation called polygon mesh. If a square mesh has n + 1 points (vertices) per side, there are n squared squares in the mesh, or 2n squared triangles since there are two triangles in a square. There are (n + 1)2 / 2(n2) vertices per triangle. Where n is large, this approaches one half. Or, each vertex inside the square mesh connects four edges (lines).
The imaging system calls up the structure of polygons needed for the scene to be created from the database. This is transferred to active memory and finally, to the display system (screen, TV monitors etc.) so that the scene can be viewed. During this process, the imaging system renders polygons in correct perspective ready for transmission of the processed data to the display system. Although polygons are two-dimensional, through the system computer they are placed in a visual scene in the correct three-dimensional orientation.
In computer graphics and computational geometry, it is often necessary to determine whether a given point lies inside a simple polygon given by a sequence of line segments. This is called the point in polygon test.
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Look up polygon in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
What Are Polyhedra?, with Greek Numerical Prefixes
Polygons, types of polygons, and polygon properties, with interactive animation
How to draw monochrome orthogonal polygons on screens, by Herbert Glarner
comp.graphics.algorithms Frequently Asked Questions, solutions to mathematical problems computing 2D and 3D polygons
Comparison of the different algorithms for Polygon Boolean operations, compares capabilities, speed and numerical robustness
Interior angle sum of polygons: a general formula, Provides an interactive Java investigation that extends the interior angle sum formula for simple closed polygons to include crossed (complex) polygons