Outline of algebraic structures

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In mathematics, there are many types of algebraic structures which are studied. Abstract algebra is primarily the study of specific algebraic structures and their properties. Algebraic structures may be viewed in different ways, however the common starting point of algebra texts is that an algebraic object incorporates one or more sets with one or more binary operations or unary operations satisfying a collection of axioms.

Another branch of mathematics known as universal algebra studies algebraic structures in general. From the universal algebra viewpoint, most structures can be divided into varieties and quasivarieties depending on the axioms used. Some axiomatic formal systems that are neither varieties nor quasivarieties, called nonvarieties, are sometimes included among the algebraic structures by tradition.

Concrete examples of each structure will be found in the articles listed.

Algebraic structures are so numerous today that this article will inevitably be incomplete. In addition to this, there are sometimes multiple names for the same structure, and sometimes one name will be defined by disagreeing axioms by different authors. Most structures appearing on this page will be common ones which most authors agree on. Other web lists of algebraic structures, organized more or less alphabetically, include Jipsen and PlanetMath. These lists mention many structures not included below, and may present more information about some structures than is presented here.

Study of algebraic structures[edit]

Algebraic structures appear in most branches of mathematics, and one can encounter them in many different ways.

  • Beginning study: In American universities, groups, vector spaces and fields are generally the first structures encountered in subjects such as linear algebra. They are usually introduced as sets with certain axioms.
  • Advanced study:
    • Abstract algebra studies properties of specific algebraic structures.
    • Universal algebra studies algebraic structures abstractly, rather than specific types of structures.
    • Category theory studies interrelationships between different structures, algebraic and non-algebraic. To study a non-algebraic object, it is often useful to use category theory to relate the object to an algebraic structure.

Types of algebraic structures[edit]

In full generality, an algebraic structure may use any number of sets and any number of axioms in its definition. The most commonly studied structures, however, usually involve only one or two sets and one or two binary operations. The structures below are organized by how many sets are involved, and how many binary operations are used. Increased indentation is meant to indicate a more exotic structure, and the least indented levels are the most basic.

One binary operation on one set[edit]

Group-like structures
Totalityα Associativity Identity Division Commutativity
Semigroupoid Unneeded Required Unneeded Unneeded Unneeded
Small category Unneeded Required Required Unneeded Unneeded
Groupoid Unneeded Required Required Required Unneeded
Magma Required Unneeded Unneeded Unneeded Unneeded
Quasigroup Required Unneeded Unneeded Required Unneeded
Unital magma Required Unneeded Required Unneeded Unneeded
Semigroup Required Required Unneeded Unneeded Unneeded
Loop Required Unneeded Required Required Unneeded
Group or Empty Required Required Unneeded Required Unneeded
Monoid Required Required Required Unneeded Unneeded
Group Required Required Required Required Unneeded
Commutative monoid Required Required Required Unneeded Required
Abelian group Required Required Required Required Required
The closure axiom, used by many sources and defined differently, is equivalent.

The following structures consist of a set with a binary operation. The most common structure is that of a group. Other structures involve weakening or strengthening the axioms for groups, and may additionally use unary operations.

  • Groups are key structures. Abelian groups are an important special type of group.
    • semigroups and monoids: These are like groups, except the operation need not have inverse elements.
    • quasigroups and loops: These are like groups, except the operation need not be associative.
    • Magmas: These are like groups, except the operation need not be associative or have inverse elements.
  • Semilattice: This is basically "half" of a lattice structure (see below).

Two binary operations on one set[edit]

The main types of structures with one set having two binary operations are rings and lattices. The axioms defining many of the other structures are modifications of the axioms for rings and lattices. One major difference between rings and lattices is that their two operations are related to each other in different ways. In ring-like structures, the two operations are linked by the distributive law; in lattice-like structures, the operations are linked by the absorption law.

Two binary operations and two sets[edit]

The following structures have the common feature of having two sets, A and B, so that there is a binary operation from A×A into A and another operation from A×B into A.

Three binary operations and two sets[edit]

Many structures here are actually hybrid structures of the previously mentioned ones.

  • Algebra over a field: This is a ring which is also a vector space over a field. There are axioms governing the interaction of the two structures. Multiplication is usually assumed to be associative.
    • Algebra over a ring: These are defined the same way as algebras over fields, except that the field may now be any commutative ring.
    • Graded algebra: These algebras are equipped with a decomposition into grades.
  • Non-associative algebras: These are algebras for which the associativity of ring multiplication is relaxed.
  • Coalgebra: This structure has axioms which make its multiplication dual to those of an associative algebra.
    • Bialgebra: These structures are simultaneously algebras and coalgebras whose operations are compatible. There are actually four operations for this structure.

Algebraic structures with additional non-algebraic structure[edit]

There are many examples of mathematical structures where algebraic structure exists alongside non-algebraic structure.

Algebraic structures in different disciplines[edit]

Some algebraic structures find uses in disciplines outside of abstract algebra. The following is meant to demonstrate some specific applications in other fields.

In Physics:

In Mathematical logic:

In Computer science:

See also[edit]


  • Garrett Birkhoff, 1967. Lattice Theory, 3rd ed, AMS Colloquium Publications Vol. 25. American Mathematical Society.
  • ———, and Saunders MacLane, 1999 (1967). Algebra, 2nd ed. New York: Chelsea.
  • George Boolos and Richard Jeffrey, 1980. Computability and Logic, 2nd ed. Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • Dummit, David S., and Foote, Richard M., 2004. Abstract Algebra, 3rd ed. John Wiley and Sons.
  • Grätzer, George, 1978. Universal Algebra, 2nd ed. Springer.
  • David K. Lewis, 1991. Part of Classes. Blackwell.
  • Michel, Anthony N., and Herget, Charles J., 1993 (1981). Applied Algebra and Functional Analysis. Dover.
  • Potter, Michael, 2004. Set Theory and its Philosophy, 2nd ed. Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Smorynski, Craig, 1991. Logical Number Theory I. Springer-Verlag.

A monograph available free online:

  • Burris, Stanley N., and H.P. Sankappanavar, H. P., 1981. A Course in Universal Algebra. Springer-Verlag. ISBN 3-540-90578-2.

External links[edit]