Questions tagged [terminology]

For questions about terms, definitions and related concepts used in science and mathematics.

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111 views

Who coined the Hawaiian Earrings?

I hope to know who first used the name "Hawaiian Earrings." Barratt, Milnor(1962) says "This example was suggested by Steenrod" in its Introduction: https://www.ams.org/journals/...
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Why did Sylvester Gates choose the name Adinkra?

Sylvester James Gates was one of the co-discoverers of Adrinkas. These are graphical representations of susy (supersymmetry) algebras. They are named after a West African people - the Akan of Ghana ...
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What does “given in species” mean in old geometry textbooks?

I recently came across the term "triangle given in species" in Hatton's Projective Geometry. Searching in archive.org turned up other examples (such as this) of 19th century texts, and it ...
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163 views

kinetic energy formula written as mv^2

I stumbled across the following quote and couldn't understand how one wouldn't use the factor of 1/2 without completely disrupting the work-energy principle. Though, informal, energy is defined as the ...
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Why are contravariant and covariant vectors called such when they very definitely aren't such?

It's still very common in the physical literature of general relativity to come across the term contravariant and covariant vectors. This is quite confusing since we have a well-known and generally ...
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1answer
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Why are the first three multiplicative SI prefixes lowercase?

The BIPM specifies twenty prefixes for the International System of Units (SI). All ten of the fractional prefixes are lowercase. However, only seven of the multiplicative prefixes are uppercase, the ...
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1answer
67 views

Are “galvanic” and “voltaic” synonymous?

The OED defines galvanism (coined ~1792) as Electricity developed by chemical action and voltaic (coined ~1813) as Used in producing electricity by chemical action after the method discovered by ...
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1answer
89 views

What is the history on the term 'co-domain'?

I am wondering if anyone knows any more on the history of the term 'co-domain' as it relates to functions. Two sources I found: Russell and Whitehead, Principia Mathematica, 1915, page 34 : the class ...
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1answer
65 views

What is the first recorded use of the word “scientia”?

Etymology dictionaries mention the word science coming from the latin word scientia from the XII century, but they don't reference any written piece where it was recorded. What's the first recorded ...
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385 views

Why are there so many German terms in the field of radiative transfer?

A lot of phenomena in radiative transfer are named after a person who studied them (Rayleigh scattering, Mie scattering, Bragg diffraction, Kikuchi lines, Tyndall effect,...). Others are designated by ...
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116 views

When was the function 1 + cos(x), aka the vercosine, given a name?

Nowadays, when one searches for little-known trigonometric functions, one usually finds a list containing the versine, coversine, vercosine, and covercosine. When using this list, $1+\cos(x)$ is given ...
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146 views

Why are complex numbers called 'complex'?

I'm a high school teacher, and I was just wondering why complex numbers are called 'complex'. I have read that Gauss coined the term. But I couldn't find any reference where it was explained. I also ...
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137 views

Could a “field” have non-commutative multiplication originally?

Today, when the term "field" is defined in algebra, it is almost always stipulated that all fields are commutative. However, the author of these lectures says that this has not always been the case: ...
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126 views

Why is a time series not called a time sequence?

In pure mathematics, a sequence is a list of terms, for instance $1, \frac12, \frac14, \dots, \frac{1}{2^k},\dots$, and a series is the sum of an infinite sequence, for instance $\sum_{k=1}^\infty \...
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What is the etymology of the mathematical terms “sheaf, stalk, germ”?

The peculiar agricultural terminology commonly used in algebraic geometry and category theory, "sheaf", "stalk", "germ", is quite well-known. A sheaf is pictured as something like a bundle of stalks, ...
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Origin of the term 'index of a subgroup'

The index of a subgroup $H$ in a group $G$ is the number of distinct cosets of $H$ in $G$. Why did someone decide to call this an 'index'?
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Why are faithful actions called faithful and who first called them faithful?

This is a cross post from MSE I want to know why are faithful actions called faithful and who first called them faithful? Definition: An action $G$ on $X$ is faithful when ${g_1 \neq g_2 \Rightarrow ...
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1answer
222 views

Who in history coined the term “character” of a group and why is it called so?

I first read the term in an introduction of Fourier transform on locally compact groups. In this article on Character of a group from Encyclopedia of Mathematics, a character of a group is defined as ...
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171 views

Why were equivalence classes named classes rather than sets?

If $R\subseteq A\times A$ is an equivalence relation (i.e., a relation that is reflexive on $A$, symmetric, and transitive), then for each element $x\in A$, the subset $[x]_R=\{y\in A: \langle x,y\...
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Why is a linear equation in 3 variables called 'linear'? [duplicate]

I have read that an equation of form 0=Ax+By+C is called linear because its graph is a straight line. But why is the equation 0=Ax+By+Cz+D also called linear even though its graph is a straight plane?...
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91 views

Etymology of certain terms in the theory of elliptic integrals

In the theory of elliptic integrals, one encounters the terms "amplitude" and "modular angle" in relation to incomplete integrals of the first kind, which are two variables that denote the upper limit ...
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195 views

What is a spacetime continuum?

A very common expression I see in pop science is "the spacetime continuum". This expression isn't commonly used in modern discussions of general relativity, but looking at some older papers on the ...
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What is the etymology of “phase space” of a dynamical system?

The state space of a dynamical system is often called a "phase space". What is the etymology of this? (Note that I'm not asking about the history of the concept, but rather about the history of the ...
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127 views

Why is one meter as long as it is?

The metre is defined as the length of the path travelled by light in a vacuum in 1/299 792 458 of a second Why is this so? Who decided that 1/299,792,458 of a ...
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What is the reasoning behind using “moment” in the “moment of inertia”?

Linear inertia is called mass. Rotational inertia is called moment of inertia. Moment of inertia is an odd choice for the term for this property. It doesn't seem to "fit" with the style or pattern of ...
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Is there a reason $⊑$ in CSP is analogous to $⊇$ (as opposed to $⊆$)?

The 'square' subset symbols are sometimes used to express analogous concepts to subsets, like prefixes or suffixes. However their use in CSP seems to be counterintuitive to their shape: $⊑$ appears ...
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What were the not-so-convincing reasons for using the word “power” for power sets?

A footnote of Enderton's Elements of Set Theory (1977, page 4) for the definition of power set states that the reasons for using the word "power" in this context are not very convincing, but the ...
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237 views

Why is the existential quantifier symbol ∃ a backwards “E”?

Peano introduced a number of logical symbols still used today: $∨$ (from Latin vel) $∧$ (inverted $∨$) $∃$ This inversion of Latin letters as symbols (and inversion of symbols to signify their '...
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Why did Linnaeus equate the phoenix, the mythical bird, with Phoenix, a palm genus?

I've been reading about the "paradoxa" section of Carl Linnaeus's Systema Naturae, where he debunk some of the more far fetched ideas about animals. Wikipedia includes this translation of what ...
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Why do we call Tycho Brahe by his first name?

Why do we use the fist name in Tychonic system or Tycho's comet of 1577, instead of using the last name of Tycho Brahe? For comparison, we have the Ptolemaic system and the Copernican system. I am ...
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Are there widely accepted math symbols using non-Latin alphabets or characters other than Greek and Hebrew?

We have $\pi$ and $\aleph_0$ borrowed from Greek and Hebrew alphabets. Are there widely accepted math symbols using non-Latin alphabets or characters other than Greek and Hebrew? A related question ...
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Have orthogonal complex matrices appeared in the literature?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthogonal_matrix, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitary_matrix, and Friedberg et al.'s Linear Algebra (4th edition), a matrix $A\in F^{n\times n}$ is ...
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Why positive definite matrix rather than positively definite matrix? [duplicate]

"Positive definite matrix" is a standard term in mathematics, espeically linear algebra. Are there grammatical, linguistic, or historical reasons why it was not called "positively definite matrix"?
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Who first gave a definition of congruent triangles?

Who was the first to define congruent triangles? I couldn't find the definition in Euclid's Elements.
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162 views

Why do we call it a “positive definite matrix” rather than a “positively definite matrix”?

The term positive definite matrix is a standard one used in mathematics, especially in linear algebra. Are there grammatical, linguistic, or historical reasons why it was not called a positively ...
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1answer
220 views

History of “independent and dependent variables”

I have a lot of questions that can be summed up by "whats the history of independent and dependent variables?" Here is a list of those questions: Where does our conception of independent and ...
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1k views

Who started calling the matrix multiplication “multiplication”?

As I searched for linear algebra, I found it odd that the linear map composition corresponds to the multiplication of matrices. Considering the intuition that the repetition of addition is ...
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56 views

How did the terms stress and strain come to describe two different things?

In physics, stress essentially captures forces in a body, where as strain captures displacements. Two dimensionally very different concepts. If you look it up in a thesaurus, stress and strain are ...
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History of Path algebras

I want some references that point the inventor of Path algebras and history/evolution of these algebras from the first idea. If possible. I tried to search in many different places, but all times, ...
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103 views

When did non-SI double prefixes go out of use?

In old physics and engineering publications from the 1950s or so, it's common to see non-SI "double prefixes", such as a "millimicrosecond pulse", or a "10 micromicrofarad" capacitor. These units are ...
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125 views

When did the term 'scientist, physicist, science, physicist' come in use?

Down to the eighteenth century physics was called philosophia naturalis, wheb and who introduced the terms Physics, Science and Scientist, and when did they supplant the old ones?
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179 views

Why are revolutions per minute (RPM) still used instead of hertz (Hz)?

When did people start using Revolutions per Minute (RPM) to measure motors, engines, other devices and where did the term originate? Why do we continue to use it instead of an SI unit like Hz? From ...
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Where did the term “set-builder notation” come from?

In math stack exchange I often see notations like $\{x\in\mathbb Q:x^2<2\}$ being called instances of set builder notation. When I went to school we (that is, I, my fellow students, my teachers, ...
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Where does the notion of “three crises of mathematics” come from? [duplicate]

Update: It can be traced back to Fraenkel-Bar-Hillel's Foundations of Set Theory, originally published in 1958. Further discussions can be seen at the linked question. The notion of "three crises ...
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Usage of terms prior and posterior in probability

Probability function is of two types in general. They are unconditional probability and conditional probability. But the terms prior probability and posterior probability are used in place of ...
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560 views

Why are 'speed' and 'velocity' not given the same name?

Position is a vector. Distance/length is a name of its magnitude. Velocity is a vector. Speed is a name of its magnitude. Acceleration is a name of a vector and its magnitude. Force is a name of a ...
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161 views

First time the unique factorization theorem was called FTA

First of all, a comment, before this gets marked as a duplicate: I have searched this website for the question I’m asking and I’m aware that this exact question has been asked before. However, Eric ...
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215 views

Why was 'ordinate' adopted to signify y-coordinate?

The OED doesn't expound what semantic notions underlie y-coordinate and the Latin etymon. Etymology: < classical Latin ōrdinātus orderly, regular, regulated, (in geometry) in alignment, ...
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147 views

Origin of the “law of quadratic reciprocity”

Today, "reciprocity" is the standard mathematical word used for quadratic reciprocity and its generalizations. I found that the name dates back to no later than 1832, when a paper of Dirichlet (...
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Dimension of the candela unit: What does J stand for?

The J symbol can represent the unit of energy but it's also the symbol for the dimension of the candela (or luminous intensity). For the energy unit, it clearly comes from the family name of the ...

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