In mathematics, a Coxeter group, named after H. S. M. Coxeter, is an abstract group that admits a formal description in terms of reflections (or kaleidoscopic mirrors). Indeed, the finite Coxeter groups are precisely the finite Euclidean reflection groups; the symmetry groups of regular polyhedra are an example. However, not all Coxeter groups are finite, and not all can be described in terms of symmetries and Euclidean reflections. Coxeter groups were introduced in 1934 as abstractions of reflection groups (Coxeter 1934), and finite Coxeter groups were classified in 1935 (Coxeter 1935).
Coxeter groups find applications in many areas of mathematics. Examples of finite Coxeter groups include the symmetry groups of regular polytopes, and the Weyl groups of simple Lie algebras. Examples of infinite Coxeter groups include the triangle groups corresponding to regular tessellations of the Euclidean plane and the hyperbolic plane, and the Weyl groups of infinite-dimensional Kac–Moody algebras.
A number of conclusions can be drawn immediately from the above definition.
The Coxeter matrix can be conveniently encoded by a Coxeter diagram, as per the following rules.
In particular, two generators commute if and only if they are not connected by an edge. Furthermore, if a Coxeter graph has two or more connected components, the associated group is the direct product of the groups associated to the individual components. Thus the disjoint union of Coxeter graphs yields a direct product of Coxeter groups.
The abstract group of a reflection group is a Coxeter group, while conversely a reflection group can be seen as a linear representation of a Coxeter group. For finite reflection groups, this yields an exact correspondence: every finite Coxeter group admits a faithful representation as a finite reflection group of some Euclidean space. For infinite Coxeter groups, however, a Coxeter group may not admit a representation as a reflection group.
Note further that the (directed) Dynkin diagrams Bn and Cn give rise to the same Weyl group (hence Coxeter group), because they differ as directed graphs, but agree as undirected graphs – direction matters for root systems but not for the Weyl group; this corresponds to the hypercube and cross-polytope being different regular polytopes but having the same symmetry group.
Some properties of the finite irreducible Coxeter groups are given in the following table. The order of reducible groups can be computed by the product of their irreducible subgroup orders.
There are three series of regular polytopes in all dimensions. The symmetry group of a regular n-simplex is the symmetric group Sn+1, also known as the Coxeter group of type An. The symmetry group of the n-cube and its dual, the n-cross-polytope, is Bn, and is known as the hyperoctahedral group.
The exceptional regular polytopes in dimensions two, three, and four, correspond to other Coxeter groups. In two dimensions, the dihedral groups, which are the symmetry groups of regular polygons, form the series I2(p). In three dimensions, the symmetry group of the regular dodecahedron and its dual, the regular icosahedron, is H3, known as the full icosahedral group. In four dimensions, there are three special regular polytopes, the 24-cell, the 120-cell, and the 600-cell. The first has symmetry group F4, while the other two are dual and have symmetry group H4.
The Coxeter groups of type Dn, E6, E7, and E8 are the symmetry groups of certain semiregular polytopes.
The affine Coxeter groups form a second important series of Coxeter groups. These are not finite themselves, but each contains a normal abelian subgroup such that the corresponding quotient group is finite. In each case, the quotient group is itself a Coxeter group, and the Coxeter graph of the affine Coxeter group is obtained from the Coxeter graph of the quotient group by adding another vertex and one or two additional edges. For example, for n ≥ 2, the graph consisting of n+1 vertices in a circle is obtained from An in this way, and the corresponding Coxeter group is the affine Weyl group of An (the affine symmetric group). For n = 2, this can be pictured as a subgroup of the symmetry group of the standard tiling of the plane by equilateral triangles.
The group symbol subscript is one less than the number of nodes in each case, since each of these groups was obtained by adding a node to a finite group's graph.
Using reduced words one may define three partial orders on the Coxeter group, the (right) weak order, the absolute order and the Bruhat order (named for François Bruhat). An element v exceeds an element u in the Bruhat order if some (or equivalently, any) reduced word for v contains a reduced word for u as a substring, where some letters (in any position) are dropped. In the weak order, v ≥ u if some reduced word for v contains a reduced word for u as an initial segment. Indeed, the word length makes this into a graded poset. The Hasse diagrams corresponding to these orders are objects of study, and are related to the Cayley graph determined by the generators. The absolute order is defined analogously to the weak order, but with generating set/alphabet consisting of all conjugates of the Coxeter generators.
For example, the permutation (1 2 3) in S3 has only one reduced word, (12)(23), so covers (12) and (23) in the Bruhat order but only covers (12) in the weak order.