I am looking for the etymology of matrice creuse.

According to Wikipedia, it seems James Joseph Sylvester used the term "matrix" in 1850, and Harry Markowitz used the term "sparse matrix" about a century later.

In French, it seems that you can translate it by matrices creuses ("hollow" matrices) and it seems more prevalent than matrices éparses ("sparse" matrices), which would be a more accurate translation (I believe).

Here are my questions :

  1. I have looked on Google ngrams for some expressions and checked books by hand link by link, but I do not understand why matrice creuse seems more prevalent than matrice éparse in French.
  2. I think I can understand why the term creuse is used in French, but if possible I would want confirmation that is it because all the 0s form a "hole" in the 2D notation of the matrix and the adjective does not refer to another thing; and that the term matrice creuse was initially employed to describe exactly this idea.

EDIT: I've looked too for vecteur creux (sparse vectors) but I did not find conclusive results either. I have seen some mentions of vecteur creux in French texts.

  • $\begingroup$ What is the earliest use of this French term that you have found? $\endgroup$
    – Mauricio
    Commented Feb 29 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Mauricio "matrice creuse", but it is dangerous to just look for the term without checking the resources since it refers to an industrial process too. The oldest in the mathematical sense we know that I found is "matrice creuse". $\endgroup$
    – Fnifni
    Commented Mar 1 at 11:52


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