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Not to be confused with the Tsallis q-exponential.

In combinatorial mathematics, a q-exponential is a q-analog of the exponential function, namely the eigenfunction of a q-derivative. There are many q-derivatives, for example, the classical q-derivative, the Askey-Wilson operator, etc. Therefore, unlike the classical exponentials, q-exponentials are not unique. For example, e_q(z) is the q-exponential corresponding to the classical q-derivative while \mathcal{E}_q(z) are eigenfunctions of the Askey-Wilson operators. Interested readers may consult the reference books by M. Ismail or G. Gasper and M. Rahman provided at the end of this article.


The q-exponential e_q(z) is defined as

\sum_{n=0}^\infty \frac{z^n}{[n]_q!} = 
\sum_{n=0}^\infty \frac{z^n (1-q)^n}{(q;q)_n} = 
\sum_{n=0}^\infty z^n\frac{(1-q)^n}{(1-q^n)(1-q^{n-1}) \cdots (1-q)}

where [n]_q! is the q-factorial and

(q;q)_n=(1-q^n)(1-q^{n-1})\cdots (1-q)

is the q-Pochhammer symbol. That this is the q-analog of the exponential follows from the property

\left(\frac{d}{dz}\right)_q e_q(z) = e_q(z)

where the derivative on the left is the q-derivative. The above is easily verified by considering the q-derivative of the monomial

\left(\frac{d}{dz}\right)_q z^n = z^{n-1} \frac{1-q^n}{1-q}
=[n]_q z^{n-1}.

Here, [n]_q is the q-bracket.


For real q>1, the function e_q(z) is an entire function of z. For q<1, e_q(z) is regular in the disk |z|<1/(1-q).

Note the inverse, ~e_q(z)  ~   e_{1/q} (-z)        =1.


For -1<q<1, a function that is closely related is E_q(z). It is a special case of the basic hypergeometric series,

E_{q}(z)=\;_{0}\phi_{1}(-;0,-z)=\sum_{n=0}^{\infty}\frac{q^{\binom{n}{2}}z^{n}}{(q;q)_{n}}=\prod_{n=0}^{\infty}(1-q^{n}z) ~.


\lim_{q\to1}E_{q}\left(z(1-q)\right)=\lim_{q\to1}\sum_{n=0}^{\infty}\frac{q^{\binom{n}{2}}(1-q)^{n}}{(q;q)_{n}}z^{n}=e^{z} .~


  • F. H. Jackson (1908), On q-functions and a certain difference operator, Trans. Roy. Soc. Edin., 46 253-281.
  • Gasper G., and Rahman, M. (2004), Basic Hypergeometric Series, Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN 0521833574
  • Ismail M. E. H. (2005), "Classical and Quantum Orthogonal Polynomials in One Variable", Cambridge University Press,2005.