In geometry, a polygon () is a plane figure that is described by a finite number of straight line segments connected to form a closed polygonal chain (or polygonal circuit). The bounded plane region, the bounding circuit, or the two together, may be called a polygon.
The segments of a polygonal circuit are called its edges or sides. The points where two edges meet are the polygon's vertices (singular: vertex) or corners. The interior of a solid polygon is sometimes called its body. An n-gon is a polygon with n sides; for example, a triangle is a 3-gon.
A simple polygon is one which does not intersect itself. Mathematicians are often concerned only with the bounding polygonal chains of simple polygons and they often define a polygon accordingly. A polygonal boundary may be allowed to cross over itself, creating star polygons and other self-intersecting polygons.
Polygons are primarily classified by the number of sides. See the table below.
Polygons may be characterized by their convexity or type of non-convexity:
The property of regularity may be defined in other ways: a polygon is regular if and only if it is both isogonal and isotoxal, or equivalently it is both cyclic and equilateral. A non-convex regular polygon is called a regular star polygon.
Any polygon has as many corners as it has sides. Each corner has several angles. The two most important ones are:
The signed area depends on the ordering of the vertices and of the orientation of the plane. Commonly, the positive orientation is defined by the (counterclockwise) rotation that maps the positive x-axis to the positive y-axis. If the vertices are ordered counterclockwise (that is, according to positive orientation), the signed area is positive; otherwise, it is negative. In either case, the area formula is correct in absolute value. This is commonly called the shoelace formula or Surveyor's formula.
The area A of a simple polygon can also be computed if the lengths of the sides, a1, a2, ..., an and the exterior angles, θ1, θ2, ..., θn are known, from:
If the polygon can be drawn on an equally spaced grid such that all its vertices are grid points, Pick's theorem gives a simple formula for the polygon's area based on the numbers of interior and boundary grid points: the former number plus one-half the latter number, minus 1.
For any two simple polygons of equal area, the Bolyai–Gerwien theorem asserts that the first can be cut into polygonal pieces which can be reassembled to form the second polygon.
The lengths of the sides of a polygon do not in general determine its area. However, if the polygon is simple and cyclic then the sides do determine the area. Of all n-gons with given side lengths, the one with the largest area is cyclic. Of all n-gons with a given perimeter, the one with the largest area is regular (and therefore cyclic).
The area of a regular polygon is given in terms of the radius r of its inscribed circle and its perimeter p by
The area of a self-intersecting polygon can be defined in two different ways, giving different answers:
Using the same convention for vertex coordinates as in the previous section, the coordinates of the centroid of a solid simple polygon are
For triangles (n = 3), the centroids of the vertices and of the solid shape are the same, but, in general, this is not true for n > 3. The centroid of the vertex set of a polygon with n vertices has the coordinates
The idea of a polygon has been generalized in various ways. Some of the more important include:
The word polygon comes from Late Latin polygōnum (a noun), from Greek πολύγωνον (polygōnon/polugōnon), noun use of neuter of πολύγωνος (polygōnos/polugōnos, the masculine adjective), meaning "many-angled". Individual polygons are named (and sometimes classified) according to the number of sides, combining a Greek-derived numerical prefix with the suffix -gon, e.g. pentagon, dodecagon. The triangle, quadrilateral and nonagon are exceptions.
Beyond decagons (10-sided) and dodecagons (12-sided), mathematicians generally use numerical notation, for example 17-gon and 257-gon.
Exceptions exist for side counts that are more easily expressed in verbal form (e.g. 20 and 30), or are used by non-mathematicians. Some special polygons also have their own names; for example the regular star pentagon is also known as the pentagram.
To construct the name of a polygon with more than 20 and less than 100 edges, combine the prefixes as follows. The "kai" term applies to 13-gons and higher and was used by Kepler, and advocated by John H. Conway for clarity to concatenated prefix numbers in the naming of quasiregular polyhedra.
Polygons have been known since ancient times. The regular polygons were known to the ancient Greeks, with the pentagram, a non-convex regular polygon (star polygon), appearing as early as the 7th century B.C. on a krater by Aristophanes, found at Caere and now in the Capitoline Museum.
Polygons appear in rock formations, most commonly as the flat facets of crystals, where the angles between the sides depend on the type of mineral from which the crystal is made.
Regular hexagons can occur when the cooling of lava forms areas of tightly packed columns of basalt, which may be seen at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, or at the Devil's Postpile in California.
In computer graphics, a polygon is a primitive used in modelling and rendering. They are defined in a database, containing arrays of vertices (the coordinates of the geometrical vertices, as well as other attributes of the polygon, such as color, shading and texture), connectivity information, and materials.
Any surface is modelled as a tessellation called polygon mesh. If a square mesh has n + 1 points (vertices) per side, there are n squared squares in the mesh, or 2n squared triangles since there are two triangles in a square. There are (n + 1)2 / 2(n2) vertices per triangle. Where n is large, this approaches one half. Or, each vertex inside the square mesh connects four edges (lines).
The imaging system calls up the structure of polygons needed for the scene to be created from the database. This is transferred to active memory and finally, to the display system (screen, TV monitors etc.) so that the scene can be viewed. During this process, the imaging system renders polygons in correct perspective ready for transmission of the processed data to the display system. Although polygons are two-dimensional, through the system computer they are placed in a visual scene in the correct three-dimensional orientation.