Prism (geometry)


In geometry, a prism is a polyhedron comprising an n-sided polygon base, a second base which is a translated copy (rigidly moved without rotation) of the first, and n other faces, necessarily all parallelograms, joining corresponding sides of the two bases. All cross-sections parallel to the bases are translations of the bases. Prisms are named after their bases, e.g. a prism with a pentagonal base is called a pentagonal prism. Prisms are a subclass of prismatoids.

Set of uniform n-gonal prisms
Hexagonal Prism BC.svg
Example uniform hexagonal prism
Typeuniform in the sense of semiregular polyhedron
Faces2 n-gonal regular polygons
n squares
Vertex configuration4.4.n
Schläfli symbol{n}×{} [1]
t{2, n}
Conway notationPn
Coxeter diagramCDel node 1.pngCDel 2.pngCDel node 1.pngCDel n.pngCDel node.png
Symmetry groupDnh, [n,2], (*n22), order 4n
Rotation groupDn, [n,2]+, (n22), order 2n
Dual polyhedronconvex dual-uniform n-gonal bipyramid
Propertiesconvex, regular polygon faces, vertex-transitive, translated bases, sides ⊥ bases
Generalized prisim net.svg

Like many basic geometric terms, the word prism (from Greek πρίσμα (prisma) 'something sawed') was first used in Euclid's Elements. Euclid defined the term in Book XI as “a solid figure contained by two opposite, equal and parallel planes, while the rest are parallelograms”. However, this definition has been criticized for not being specific enough in relation to the nature of the bases, which caused confusion among later geometry writers.[2][3]

Oblique prismEdit

An oblique prism is a prism in which the joining edges and faces are not perpendicular to the base faces.

Example: a parallelepiped is an oblique prism of which the base is a parallelogram, or equivalently a polyhedron with six faces which are all parallelograms.

Right prism, uniform prismEdit

Right prismEdit

A right prism is a prism in which the joining edges and faces are perpendicular to the base faces.[4] This applies if all the joining faces are rectangular.

The dual of a right n-prism is a right n-bipyramid.

A right prism (with rectangular sides) with regular n-gon bases has Schläfli symbol { }×{n}. It approaches a cylindrical solid as n approaches infinity; a cylinder is considered a circular prism.

Special casesEdit

  • A right rectangular prism (with a rectangular base) is also called a cuboid, or informally a rectangular box. A right rectangular prism has Schläfli symbol { }×{ }×{ }.
  • A right square prism (with a square base) is also called a square cuboid, or informally a square box.

Note: some texts may apply the term rectangular prism or square prism to both a right rectangular-based prism and a right square-based prism.

Uniform prismEdit

A uniform prism or semiregular prism is a right prism with regular bases and square sides, since such prisms are in the set of uniform polyhedra.

A uniform n-gonal prism has Schläfli symbol t{2,n}.

Right prisms with regular bases and equal edge lengths form one of the two infinite series of semiregular polyhedra, the other series being antiprisms.

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  • Prism name Digonal prism (Trigonal)
    Triangular prism
    Square prism
    Pentagonal prism Hexagonal prism Heptagonal prism Octagonal prism Enneagonal prism Decagonal prism Hendecagonal prism Dodecagonal prism ... Apeirogonal prism
    Polyhedron image                       ...
    Spherical tiling image                 Plane tiling image  
    Vertex config. 2.4.4 3.4.4 4.4.4 5.4.4 6.4.4 7.4.4 8.4.4 9.4.4 10.4.4 11.4.4 12.4.4 ... ∞.4.4
    Coxeter diagram                                                                   ...      


    The volume of a prism is the product of the area of the base and the distance between the two base faces, or the height (in the case of a non-right prism, note that this means the perpendicular distance).

    The volume is therefore:


    where B is the base area and h is the height. The volume of a prism whose base is an n-sided regular polygon with side length s is therefore:


    Surface areaEdit

    The surface area of a right prism is:


    where B is the area of the base, h the height, and P the base perimeter.

    The surface area of a right prism whose base is a regular n-sided polygon with side length s and height h is therefore:


    Schlegel diagramsEdit



    The symmetry group of a right n-sided prism with regular base is Dnh of order 4n, except in the case of a cube, which has the larger symmetry group Oh of order 48, which has three versions of D4h as subgroups. The rotation group is Dn of order 2n, except in the case of a cube, which has the larger symmetry group O of order 24, which has three versions of D4 as subgroups.

    The symmetry group Dnh contains inversion iff n is even.

    The hosohedra and dihedra also possess dihedral symmetry, and an n-gonal prism can be constructed via the geometrical truncation of an n-gonal hosohedron, as well as through the cantellation or expansion of an n-gonal dihedron.

    Truncated prismEdit

    A truncated prism is a prism with non-parallel top and bottom faces.[5]

    Example truncated triangular prism. Its top face is truncated at an oblique angle, but it is NOT an oblique prism!

    Twisted prismEdit

    A twisted prism is a nonconvex polyhedron constructed from a uniform n-prism with each side face bisected on the square diagonal, by twisting the top, usually by π/n radians (180/n degrees) in the same direction, causing sides to be concave.[6][7]

    A twisted prism cannot be dissected into tetrahedra without adding new vertices. The smallest case: the triangular form, is called a Schönhardt polyhedron.

    An n-gonal twisted prism is topologically identical to the n-gonal uniform antiprism, but has half the symmetry group: Dn, [n,2]+, order 2n. It can be seen as a nonconvex antiprism, with tetrahedra removed between pairs of triangles.

    3-gonal 4-gonal 12-gonal
    Schönhardt polyhedron
    Twisted square prism
    Square antiprism
    Twisted dodecagonal antiprism


    A frustum is a similar construction to a prism, with trapezoid lateral faces and differently sized top and bottom polygons.

    Example pentagonal frustum

    Star prismEdit

    A star prism is a nonconvex polyhedron constructed by two identical star polygon faces on the top and bottom, being parallel and offset by a distance and connected by rectangular faces. A uniform star prism will have Schläfli symbol {p/q} × { }, with p rectangle and 2 {p/q} faces. It is topologically identical to a p-gonal prism.

    { }×{ }180×{ } ta{3}×{ } {5/2}×{ } {7/2}×{ } {7/3}×{ } {8/3}×{ }
    D2h, order 8 D3h, order 12 D5h, order 20 D7h, order 28 D8h, order 32

    Crossed prismEdit

    A crossed prism is a nonconvex polyhedron constructed from a prism, where the vertices of one base are inverted around the center of this base (or rotated by 180°). This transforms the side rectangular faces into crossed rectangles. For a regular polygon base, the appearance is an n-gonal hour glass. All oblique edges pass through a single body center. Note: no vertex is at this body centre. A crossed prism is topologically identical to an n-gonal prism.

    { }×{ }180×{ }180 ta{3}×{ }180 {3}×{ }180 {4}×{ }180 {5}×{ }180 {5/2}×{ }180 {6}×{ }180
    D2h, order 8 D3d, order 12 D4h, order 16 D5d, order 20 D6d, order 24

    Toroidal prismEdit

    A toroidal prism is a nonconvex polyhedron like a crossed prism, but without bottom and top base faces, and with simple rectangular side faces closing the polyhedron. This can only be done for even-sided base polygons. These are topological tori, with Euler characteristic of zero. The topological polyhedral net can be cut from two rows of a square tiling (with vertex configuration a band of n squares, each attached to a crossed rectangle. An n-gonal toroidal prism has 2n vertices, 2n faces: n squares and n crossed rectangles, and 4n edges. It is topologically self-dual.

    D4h, order 16 D6h, order 24
    v=8, e=16, f=8 v=12, e=24, f=12

    Prismatic polytopeEdit

    A prismatic polytope is a higher-dimensional generalization of a prism. An n-dimensional prismatic polytope is constructed from two (n − 1)-dimensional polytopes, translated into the next dimension.

    The prismatic n-polytope elements are doubled from the (n − 1)-polytope elements and then creating new elements from the next lower element.

    Take an n-polytope with fi i-face elements (i = 0, ..., n). Its (n + 1)-polytope prism will have 2fi + fi−1 i-face elements. (With f−1 = 0, fn = 1.)

    By dimension:

    • Take a polygon with n vertices, n edges. Its prism has 2n vertices, 3n edges, and 2 + n faces.
    • Take a polyhedron with v vertices, e edges, and f faces. Its prism has 2v vertices, 2e + v edges, 2f + e faces, and 2 + f cells.
    • Take a polychoron with v vertices, e edges, f faces, and c cells. Its prism has 2v vertices, 2e + v edges, 2f + e faces, 2c + f cells, and 2 + c hypercells.

    Uniform prismatic polytopeEdit

    A regular n-polytope represented by Schläfli symbol {p,q,..., t} can form a uniform prismatic (n + 1)-polytope represented by a Cartesian product of two Schläfli symbols: {p,q,..., t}×{ }.

    By dimension:

    • A 0-polytopic prism is a line segment, represented by an empty Schläfli symbol { }.
    • A 1-polytopic prism is a rectangle, made from 2 translated line segments. It is represented as the product Schläfli symbol { }×{ }. If it is square, symmetry can be reduced: { }×{ } = {4}.
      Example:  , Square, { }×{ }, two parallel line segments, connected by two line segment sides.
    • A polygonal prism is a 3-dimensional prism made from two translated polygons connected by rectangles. A regular polygon {p} can construct a uniform n-gonal prism represented by the product {p}×{ }. If p = 4, with square sides symmetry it becomes a cube: {4}×{ } = {4,3}.
      Example:  , Pentagonal prism, {5}×{ }, two parallel pentagons connected by 5 rectangular sides.
    • A polyhedral prism is a 4-dimensional prism made from two translated polyhedra connected by 3-dimensional prism cells. A regular polyhedron {p,q} can construct the uniform polychoric prism, represented by the product {p,q}×{ }. If the polyhedron is a cube, and the sides are cubes, it becomes a tesseract: {4,3}×{ } = {4,3,3}.
      Example:  , Dodecahedral prism, {5,3}×{ }, two parallel dodecahedra connected by 12 pentagonal prism sides.
    • ...
    A {23}x{29} duoprism, showing edges in stereographic projection. The squares made a 23×29 grid flat torus.

    Higher order prismatic polytopes also exist as cartesian products of any two or more polytopes. The dimension of a product polytope is the sum of the dimensions of its elements. The first examples of these exist in 4-dimensional space; they are called duoprisms as the product of two polygons in 4-dimensions.

    Regular duoprisms are represented as {p}×{q}, with pq vertices, 2pq edges, pq square faces, p q-gon faces, q p-gon faces, and bounded by p q-gonal prisms and q p-gonal prisms.

    For example, {4}×{4}, a 4-4 duoprism is a lower symmetry form of a tesseract, as is {4,3}×{ }, a cubic prism. {4}×{4}×{ } (4-4 duoprism prism), {4,3}×{4} (cube-4 duoprism) and {4,3,3}×{ } (tesseractic prism) are lower symmetry forms of a 5-cube.

    See alsoEdit


    1. ^ N.W. Johnson: Geometries and Transformations, (2018) ISBN 978-1-107-10340-5 Chapter 11: Finite symmetry groups, 11.3 Pyramids, Prisms, and Antiprisms, Figure 11.3b
    2. ^ Thomas Malton (1774). A Royal Road to Geometry: Or, an Easy and Familiar Introduction to the Mathematics. ... By Thomas Malton. ... author, and sold. pp. 360–.
    3. ^ James Elliot (1845). Key to the Complete Treatise on Practical Geometry and Mensuration: Containing Full Demonstrations of the Rules ... Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans. pp. 3–.
    4. ^ William F. Kern, James R. Bland, Solid Mensuration with proofs, 1938, p.28
    5. ^ William F. Kern, James R. Bland, Solid Mensuration with proofs, 1938, p.81
    6. ^ The facts on file: Geometry handbook, Catherine A. Gorini, 2003, ISBN 0-8160-4875-4, p.172
    7. ^ "Pictures of Twisted Prisms".
    • Anthony Pugh (1976). Polyhedra: A visual approach. California: University of California Press Berkeley. ISBN 0-520-03056-7. Chapter 2: Archimedean polyhedra, prisma and antiprisms

    External linksEdit

    • Weisstein, Eric W. "Prism". MathWorld.
    • Paper models of prisms and antiprisms Free nets of prisms and antiprisms
    • Paper models of prisms and antiprisms Using nets generated by Stella