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In mathematics, symmetrization is a process that converts any function in n variables to a symmetric function in n variables. Conversely, anti-symmetrization converts any function in n variables into an antisymmetric function.

Two variables[edit]

Let be a set and an abelian group. Given a map , is termed a symmetric map if for all .

The symmetrization of a map is the map .

Similarly, the anti-symmetrization or skew-symmetrization of a map is the map .

The sum of the symmetrization and the anti-symmetrization of a map α is 2α. Thus, away from 2, meaning if 2 is invertible, such as for the real numbers, one can divide by 2 and express every function as a sum of a symmetric function and an anti-symmetric function.

The symmetrization of a symmetric map is its double, while the symmetrization of an alternating map is zero; similarly, the anti-symmetrization of a symmetric map is zero, while the anti-symmetrization of an anti-symmetric map is its double.

Bilinear forms[edit]

The symmetrization and anti-symmetrization of a bilinear map are bilinear; thus away from 2, every bilinear form is a sum of a symmetric form and a skew-symmetric form, and there is no difference between a symmetric form and a quadratic form.

At 2, not every form can be decomposed into a symmetric form and a skew-symmetric form – for instance, over the integers, the associated symmetric form (over the rationals) may take half-integer values, while over a function is skew-symmetric if and only if it is symmetric (as 1 = −1).

This leads to the notion of ε-quadratic forms and ε-symmetric forms.

Representation theory[edit]

In terms of representation theory:

As the symmetric group of order two equals the cyclic group of order two (), this corresponds to the discrete Fourier transform of order two.

n variables[edit]

More generally, given a function in n variables, one can symmetrize by taking the sum over all permutations of the variables,[1] or anti-symmetrize by taking the sum over all even permutations and subtracting the sum over all odd permutations (except that when n ≤ 1, the only permutation is even).

Here symmetrizing (respectively anti-symmetrizing) a symmetric function multiplies by – thus if is invertible, such as when working a field of characteristic or then these yield projections when divided by .

In terms of representation theory, these only yield the subrepresentations corresponding to the trivial and sign representation, but for there are others – see representation theory of the symmetric group and symmetric polynomials.


Given a function in k variables, one can obtain a symmetric function in n variables by taking the sum over k element subsets of the variables. In statistics, this is referred to as bootstrapping, and the associated statistics are called U-statistics.


  1. ^ Hazewinkel (1990), p. 344


  • Hazewinkel, Michiel (1990). Encyclopaedia of mathematics: an updated and annotated translation of the Soviet "Mathematical encyclopaedia". Encyclopaedia of Mathematics. 6. Springer. ISBN 978-1-55608-005-0.