Algebraic integer

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In algebraic number theory, an algebraic integer is a complex number which is integral over the integers. That is, an algebraic integer is a complex root of some monic polynomial (a polynomial whose leading coefficient is 1) whose coefficients are integers. The set of all algebraic integers A is closed under addition, subtraction and multiplication and therefore is a commutative subring of the complex numbers.

The ring of integers of a number field K, denoted by OK, is the intersection of K and A: it can also be characterised as the maximal order of the field K. Each algebraic integer belongs to the ring of integers of some number field. A number α is an algebraic integer if and only if the ring is finitely generated as an abelian group, which is to say, as a -module.


The following are equivalent definitions of an algebraic integer. Let K be a number field (i.e., a finite extension of , the field of rational numbers), in other words, for some algebraic number by the primitive element theorem.

  • αK is an algebraic integer if there exists a monic polynomial such that f(α) = 0.
  • αK is an algebraic integer if the minimal monic polynomial of α over is in .
  • αK is an algebraic integer if is a finitely generated -module.
  • αK is an algebraic integer if there exists a non-zero finitely generated -submodule such that αMM.

Algebraic integers are a special case of integral elements of a ring extension. In particular, an algebraic integer is an integral element of a finite extension .


  • The only algebraic integers which are found in the set of rational numbers are the integers. In other words, the intersection of and A is exactly . The rational number a/b is not an algebraic integer unless b divides a. Note that the leading coefficient of the polynomial bxa is the integer b. As another special case, the square root of a nonnegative integer n is an algebraic integer, but is irrational unless n is a perfect square.
  • If d is a square-free integer then the extension is a quadratic field of rational numbers. The ring of algebraic integers OK contains since this is a root of the monic polynomial x2d. Moreover, if d ≡ 1 mod 4, then the element is also an algebraic integer. It satisfies the polynomial x2x + 1/4(1 − d) where the constant term 1/4(1 − d) is an integer. The full ring of integers is generated by or respectively. See Quadratic integer for more.
  • The ring of integers of the field , α = 3m, has the following integral basis, writing m = hk2 for two square-free coprime integers h and k:[1]
  • If ζn is a primitive nth root of unity, then the ring of integers of the cyclotomic field is precisely .
  • If α is an algebraic integer then β = nα is another algebraic integer. A polynomial for β is obtained by substituting xn in the polynomial for α.


  • If P(x) is a primitive polynomial which has integer coefficients but is not monic, and P is irreducible over , then none of the roots of P are algebraic integers (but are algebraic numbers). Here primitive is used in the sense that the highest common factor of the coefficients of P is 1; this is weaker than requiring the coefficients to be pairwise relatively prime.


  • The sum, difference and product of two algebraic integers is an algebraic integer. In general their quotient is not. The monic polynomial involved is generally of higher degree than those of the original algebraic integers, and can be found by taking resultants and factoring. For example, if x2x − 1 = 0, y3y − 1 = 0 and z = xy, then eliminating x and y from zxy = 0 and the polynomials satisfied by x and y using the resultant gives z6 − 3z4 − 4z3 + z2 + z − 1 = 0, which is irreducible, and is the monic equation satisfied by the product. (To see that the xy is a root of the x-resultant of zxy and x2x − 1, one might use the fact that the resultant is contained in the ideal generated by its two input polynomials.)
  • Any number constructible out of the integers with roots, addition, and multiplication is therefore an algebraic integer; but not all algebraic integers are so constructible: in a naïve sense, most roots of irreducible quintics are not. This is the Abel–Ruffini theorem.
  • Every root of a monic polynomial whose coefficients are algebraic integers is itself an algebraic integer. In other words, the algebraic integers form a ring which is integrally closed in any of its extensions.
  • The ring of algebraic integers is a Bézout domain, as a consequence of the principal ideal theorem.
  • If the monic polynomial associated with an algebraic integer has constant term 1 or −1, then the reciprocal of that algebraic integer is also an algebraic integer, and is a unit, an element of the group of units of the ring of algebraic integers.
  • Every algebraic number can be written as the ratio of an algebraic integer to a non-zero algebraic integer. In fact, the denominator can always be chosen to be a positive integer. Specifically, if x is an algebraic number that is a root of the polynomial p(x) with integer coefficients and leading term anxn for an > 0 then anx / an is the promised ratio. In particular, y = anx is an algebraic integer because it is a root of an − 1
    p(y /an)
    , which is a monic polynomial in y with integer coefficients.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marcus, Daniel A. (1977). Number Fields (3rd ed.). Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag. ch. 2, p. 38 and ex. 41. ISBN 978-0-387-90279-1.