World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Group order

Article Id: WHEBN0002838115
Reproduction Date:

Title: Group order  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Quaternion group
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Group order

This article is about order in group theory. For order in other branches of mathematics, see Order (mathematics). For order in other disciplines, see Order.

In group theory, a branch of mathematics, the term order is used in two closely related senses:

  • The order of a group is its cardinality, i.e., the number of elements in its set.
  • The order, sometimes period, of an element a of a group is the smallest positive integer m such that am = e (where e denotes the identity element of the group, and am denotes the product of m copies of a). If no such m exists, a is said to have infinite order.

The order of a group G is denoted by ord(G) or |G| and the order of an element a is denoted by ord(a) or |a|.


Example. The symmetric group S3 has the following multiplication table.

e s t u v w
e e s t u v w
s s e v w t u
t t u e s w v
u u t w v e s
v v w s e u t
w w v u t s e

This group has six elements, so ord(S3) = 6. By definition, the order of the identity, e, is 1. Each of s, t, and w squares to e, so these group elements have order 2. Completing the enumeration, both u and v have order 3, for u2 = v and u3 = vu = e, and v2 = u and v3 = uv = e.

Order and structure

The order of a group and that of an element tend to speak about the structure of the group. Roughly speaking, the more complicated the factorization of the order the more complicated the group.

If the order of group G is 1, then the group is called a trivial group. Given an element a, ord(a) = 1 if and only if a is the identity. If every (non-identity) element in G is the same as its inverse (so that a2 = e), then ord(a) = 2 and consequently G is abelian since ab=(ab)^{-1}=b^{-1}a^{-1}=ba by Elementary group theory. The converse of this statement is not true; for example, the (additive) cyclic group Z6 of integers modulo 6 is abelian, but the number 2 has order 3:

2+2+2=6 \equiv 0 \pmod {6}.

The relationship between the two concepts of order is the following: if we write

\langle a \rangle = \{ a^{k} : k \in \mathbb{Z} \}

for the subgroup generated by a, then

\operatorname{ord} (a) = \operatorname{ord}(\langle a \rangle).

For any integer k, we have

ak = e   if and only if   ord(a) divides k.

In general, the order of any subgroup of G divides the order of G. More precisely: if H is a subgroup of G, then

ord(G) / ord(H) = [G : H], where [G : H] is called the index of H in G, an integer. This is Lagrange's theorem. (This is, however, only true when G has finite order. If ord(G) = ∞, the quotient ord(G) / ord(H) does not make sense.)

As an immediate consequence of the above, we see that the order of every element of a group divides the order of the group. For example, in the symmetric group shown above, where ord(S3) = 6, the orders of the elements are 1, 2, or 3.

The following partial converse is true for finite groups: if d divides the order of a group G and d is a prime number, then there exists an element of order d in G (this is sometimes called Cauchy's theorem). The statement does not hold for composite orders, e.g. the Klein four-group does not have an element of order four). This can be shown by inductive proof.[1] The consequences of the theorem include: the order of a group G is a power of a prime p if and only if ord(a) is some power of p for every a in G.[2]

If a has infinite order, then all powers of a have infinite order as well. If a has finite order, we have the following formula for the order of the powers of a:

ord(ak) = ord(a) / gcd(ord(a), k)

for every integer k. In particular, a and its inverse a−1 have the same order.

In any group,

\operatorname{ord}(ab) = \operatorname{ord}(ba)

There is no general formula relating the order of a product ab to the orders of a and b. In fact, it is possible that both a and b have finite order while ab has infinite order, or that both a and b have infinite order while ab has finite order. An example of the former is a(x) = 2-x, b(x) = 1-x with ab(x) = x-1 in the group Sym(\mathbb{Z}). An example of the latter is a(x) = x+1, b(x) = x-1 with ab(x) = id. If ab = ba, we can at least say that ord(ab) divides lcm(ord(a), ord(b)). As a consequence, one can prove that in a finite abelian group, if m denotes the maximum of all the orders of the group's elements, then every element's order divides m.

Counting by order of elements

Suppose G is a finite group of order n, and d is a divisor of n. The number of order-d-elements in G is a multiple of φ(d), where φ is Euler's totient function, giving the number of positive integers no larger than d and coprime to it. For example in the case of S3, φ(3) = 2, and we have exactly two elements of order 3. The theorem provides no useful information about elements of order 2, because φ(2) = 1, and is only of limited utility for composite d such as d=6, since φ(6)=2, and there are zero elements of order 6 in S3.

In relation to homomorphisms

Group homomorphisms tend to reduce the orders of elements: if fG → H is a homomorphism, and a is an element of G of finite order, then ord(f(a)) divides ord(a). If f is injective, then ord(f(a)) = ord(a). This can often be used to prove that there are no (injective) homomorphisms between two concretely given groups. (For example, there can be no nontrivial homomorphism h: S3 → Z5, because every number except zero in Z5 has order 5, which does not divide the orders 1, 2, and 3 of elements in S3.) A further consequence is that conjugate elements have the same order.

Class equation

An important result about orders is the class equation; it relates the order of a finite group G to the order of its center Z(G) and the sizes of its non-trivial conjugacy classes:

|G| = |Z(G)| + \sum_{i}d_i\;

where the di are the sizes of the non-trivial conjugacy classes; these are proper divisors of |G| bigger than one, and they are also equal to the indices of the centralizers in G of the representatives of the non-trivial conjugacy classes. For example, the center of S3 is just the trivial group with the single element e, and the equation reads |S3| = 1+2+3.

Open questions

Several deep questions about the orders of groups and their elements are contained in the various Burnside problems; some of these questions are still open.


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.