Closed monoidal category

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In mathematics, especially in category theory, a closed monoidal category (or a monoidal closed category) is a category that is both a monoidal category and a closed category in such a way that the structures are compatible.

A classic example is the category of sets, Set, where the monoidal product of sets and is the usual cartesian product , and the internal Hom is the set of functions from to . A non-cartesian example is the category of vector spaces, K-Vect, over a field . Here the monoidal product is the usual tensor product of vector spaces, and the internal Hom is the vector space of linear maps from one vector space to another.

The internal language of closed symmetric monoidal categories is linear logic and the type system is the linear type system. Many examples of closed monoidal categories are symmetric. However, this need not always be the case, as non-symmetric monoidal categories can be encountered in category-theoretic formulations of linguistics; roughly speaking, this is because word-order in natural language matters.


A closed monoidal category is a monoidal category such that for every object the functor given by right tensoring with

has a right adjoint, written

This means that there exists a bijection, called 'currying', between the Hom-sets

that is natural in both A and C. In a different, but common notation, one would say that the functor

has a right adjoint

Equivalently, a closed monoidal category is a category equipped, for every two objects A and B, with

  • an object ,
  • a morphism ,

satisfying the following universal property: for every morphism

there exists a unique morphism

such that

It can be shown[citation needed] that this construction defines a functor . This functor is called the internal Hom functor, and the object is called the internal Hom of and . Many other notations are in common use for the internal Hom. When the tensor product on is the cartesian product, the usual notation is and this object is called the exponential object.

Biclosed and symmetric categories[edit]

Strictly speaking, we have defined a right closed monoidal category, since we required that right tensoring with any object has a right adjoint. In a left closed monoidal category, we instead demand that the functor of left tensoring with any object

have a right adjoint

A biclosed monoidal category is a monoidal category that is both left and right closed.

A symmetric monoidal category is left closed if and only if it is right closed. Thus we may safely speak of a 'symmetric monoidal closed category' without specifying whether it is left or right closed. In fact, the same is true more generally for braided monoidal categories: since the braiding makes naturally isomorphic to , the distinction between tensoring on the left and tensoring on the right becomes immaterial, so every right closed braided monoidal category becomes left closed in a canonical way, and vice versa.

We have described closed monoidal categories as monoidal categories with an extra property. One can equivalently define a closed monoidal category to be a closed category with an extra property. Namely, we can demand the existence of a tensor product that is left adjoint to the internal Hom functor. In this approach, closed monoidal categories are also called monoidal closed categories.[citation needed]


  • Every cartesian closed category is a symmetric, monoidal closed category, when the monoidal structure is the cartesian product structure. The internal Hom functor is given by the exponential object .
    • In particular, the category of sets, Set, is a symmetric, closed monoidal category. Here the internal Hom is just the set of functions from to .
  • The category of modules, R-Mod over a commutative ring R is a non-cartesian, symmetric, monoidal closed category. The monoidal product is given by the tensor product of modules and the internal Hom is given by the space of R-linear maps with its natural R-module structure.
    • In particular, the category of vector spaces over a field is a symmetric, closed monoidal category.
    • Abelian groups can be regarded as Z-modules, so the category of abelian groups is also a symmetric, closed monoidal category.
  • A symmetric compact closed category is a symmetric monoidal closed category in which the internal Hom functor is given by . The canonical example is the category of finite-dimensional vector spaces, FdVect.


  • The category of rings is a symmetric, monoidal category under the tensor product of rings, with serving as the unit object. This category is not closed. If it were, there would be exactly one homomorphism between any pair of rings: . The same holds for the category of R-algebras over a commutative ring R.

See also[edit]


  • Kelly, G.M. (1982). Basic Concepts of Enriched Category Theory (PDF). London Mathematical Society Lecture Note Series. Vol. 64. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-28702-9. OCLC 1015056596.
  • Melliès, Paul-André (2009). "Categorical Semantics of Linear Logic" (PDF). Panoramas et Synthèses. 27: 1–197. CiteSeerX
  • Closed monoidal category at the nLab