Essential range

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In mathematics, particularly measure theory, the essential range of a function is intuitively the 'non-negligible' range of the function: It does not change between two functions that are equal almost everywhere. One way of thinking of the essential range of a function is the set on which the range of the function is most 'concentrated'. The essential range can be defined for measurable real or complex-valued functions on a measure space.

Formal definition[edit]

Let f be a Borel-measurable, complex-valued function defined on a measure space (X,\mathfrak{A},\mu). Then the essential range of f is defined to be the set:

\operatorname{}(f) = \left\{z \in \mathbb{C} \mid \text{for all}\ \varepsilon > 0: \mu(\{x : |f(x) - z| < \varepsilon\}) > 0\right\}

In other words: The essential range of a complex-valued function is the set of all complex numbers z such that the inverse image of each ε-neighbourhood of z under f has positive measure.


  • The essential range of a measurable function is always closed.
  • The essential range of a measurable function is always a subset of \overline{\operatorname{im}(f)}.
  • The essential image cannot be used to distinguished functions that are almost everywhere equal: If f=g holds \mu-almost everywhere, then \operatorname{}(f)=\operatorname{}(g).
  • These two facts characterise the essential image: It is the biggest set contained in the closures of \operatorname{im}(g) for all g that are a.e. equal to f:
\operatorname{}(f) = \bigcap_{f=g\,\text{a.e.}} \overline{\operatorname{im}(g)}.
  • The essential range satisfies \forall A\subseteq X: f(A) \cap \operatorname{}(f) = \emptyset \implies \mu(A) = 0.
  • This fact characterises the essential image: It is the smallest closed subset of \mathbb{C} with this property.
  • The essential supremum of a real valued function equals the supremum of its essential image and the essential infimum equals the infimum of its essential range. Consequently a function is essentially bounded if and only if its essential range is bounded.
  • The essential range of an essentially bounded function f is equal to the spectrum \sigma(f) where f is considered as an element of the C*-algebra L^\infty(\mu).


  • If \mu is the zero measure, then the essential image of all measurable functions is empty.
  • This also illustrates that even though the essential range of a function is a subset of the closure of the range of that function, equality of the two sets need not hold.
  • If X\subseteq\mathbb{R}^n is open, f:X\to\mathbb{C} and \mu the Lebesgue measure, then \operatorname{}(f)=\overline{\operatorname{im}(f)} holds. This holds more generally for all Borel measures that assign non-zero measure to every non-empty open set.

See also[edit]