Holomorph (mathematics)

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In mathematics, especially in the area of algebra known as group theory, the holomorph of a group is a group which simultaneously contains (copies of) the group and its automorphism group. The holomorph provides interesting examples of groups, and allows one to treat group elements and group automorphisms in a uniform context. In group theory, for a group G, the holomorph of G denoted \operatorname{Hol}(G) can be described as a semidirect product or as a permutation group.

Hol(G) as a semi-direct product[edit]

If \operatorname{Aut}(G) is the automorphism group of G then

\operatorname{Hol}(G)=G\rtimes \operatorname{Aut}(G)

where the multiplication is given by

(g,\alpha)(h,\beta)=(g\alpha(h),\alpha\beta). [Eq. 1]

Typically, a semidirect product is given in the form G\rtimes_{\phi}A where G and A are groups and \phi:A\rightarrow \operatorname{Aut}(G) is a homomorphism and where the multiplication of elements in the semi-direct product is given as


which is well defined, since \phi(a)\in \operatorname{Aut}(G) and therefore \phi(a)(h)\in G.

For the holomorph, A=\operatorname{Aut}(G) and \phi is the identity map, as such we suppress writing \phi explicitly in the multiplication given in [Eq. 1] above.

For example,

  • G=C_3=\langle x\rangle=\{1,x,x^2\} the cyclic group of order 3
  • \operatorname{Aut}(G)=\langle \sigma\rangle=\{1,\sigma\} where \sigma(x)=x^2
  • \operatorname{Hol}(G)=\{(x^i,\sigma^j)\} with the multiplication given by:
(x^{i_1},\sigma^{j_1})(x^{i_2},\sigma^{j_2}) = (x^{i_1+i_22^{^{j_1}}},\sigma^{j_1+j_2}) where the exponents of x are taken mod 3 and those of \sigma mod 2.

Observe, for example


and note also that this group is not abelian, as (x^2,\sigma)(x,\sigma)=(x,1), so that \operatorname{Hol}(C_3) is a non-abelian group of order 6 which, by basic group theory, must be isomorphic to the symmetric group S_3.

Hol(G) as a permutation group[edit]

A group G acts naturally on itself by left and right multiplication, each giving rise to a homomorphism from G into the symmetric group on the underlying set of G. One homomorphism is defined as λ: G → Sym(G), λ(g)(h) = g·h. That is, g is mapped to the permutation obtained by left multiplying each element of G by g. Similarly, a second homomorphism ρ: G → Sym(G) is defined by ρ(g)(h) = h·g−1, where the inverse ensures that ρ(g·h)(k) = ρ(g)(ρ(h)(k)). These homomorphisms are called the left and right regular representations of G. Each homomorphism is injective, a fact referred to as Cayley's theorem.

For example, if G = C3 = {1, x, x2 } is a cyclic group of order three, then

  • λ(x)(1) = x·1 = x,
  • λ(x)(x) = x·x = x2, and
  • λ(x)(x2) = x·x2 = 1,

so λ(x) takes (1, x, x2) to (x, x2, 1).

The image of λ is a subgroup of Sym(G) isomorphic to G, and its normalizer in Sym(G) is defined to be the holomorph H of G. For each f in H and g in G, there is an h in G such that f·λ(g) = λ(hf. If an element f of the holomorph fixes the identity of G, then for 1 in G, (f·λ(g))(1) = (λ(hf)(1), but the left hand side is f(g), and the right side is h. In other words, if f in H fixes the identity of G, then for every g in G, f·λ(g) = λ(f(g))·f. If g, h are elements of G, and f is an element of H fixing the identity of G, then applying this equality twice to f·λ(gλ(h) and once to the (equivalent) expression f·λ(g·h) gives that f(gf(h) = f(g·h). That is, every element of H that fixes the identity of G is in fact an automorphism of G. Such an f normalizes λ(G), and the only λ(g) that fixes the identity is λ(1). Setting A to be the stabilizer (group theory) of the identity, the subgroup generated by A and λ(G) is semidirect product with normal subgroup λ(G) and complement A. Since λ(G) is transitive, the subgroup generated by λ(G) and the point stabilizer A is all of H, which shows the holomorph as a permutation group is isomorphic to the holomorph as semidirect product.

It is useful, but not directly relevant, that the centralizer of λ(G) in Sym(G) is ρ(G), their intersection is ρ(Z(G)) = λ(Z(G)), where Z(G) is the center of G, and that A is a common complement to both of these normal subgroups of H.


  • ρ(G) ∩ Aut(G) = 1
  • Aut(G) normalizes ρ(G) so that canonically ρ(G)Aut(G) ≅ G ⋊ Aut(G)
  • \operatorname{Inn}(G)\cong \operatorname{Im}(g\mapsto \lambda(g)\rho(g)) since λ(g)ρ(g)(h) = ghg−1
  • KG is a characteristic subgroup if and only if λ(K) ⊴ Hol(G)