Dickson polynomial

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In mathematics, the Dickson polynomials, denoted Dn(x,α), form a polynomial sequence introduced by L. E. Dickson (1897). They were rediscovered by Brewer (1961) in his study of Brewer sums and have at times, although rarely, been referred to as Brewer polynomials.

Over the complex numbers, Dickson polynomials are essentially equivalent to Chebyshev polynomials with a change of variable, and, in fact, Dickson polynomials are sometimes called Chebyshev polynomials.

Dickson polynomials are generally studied over finite fields, where they sometimes may not be equivalent to Chebyshev polynomials. One of the main reasons for interest in them is that for fixed α, they give many examples of permutation polynomials; polynomials acting as permutations of finite fields.


First kind

For integer n > 0 and α in a commutative ring R with identity (often chosen to be the finite field Fq = GF(q)) the Dickson polynomials (of the first kind) over R are given by[1]

The first few Dickson polynomials are

They may also be generated by the recurrence relation for n ≥ 2,

with the initial conditions D0(x,α) = 2 and D1(x,α) = x.

Second kind

The Dickson polynomials of the second kind, En(x,α), are defined by

They have not been studied much, and have properties similar to those of Dickson polynomials of the first kind. The first few Dickson polynomials of the second kind are

They may also be generated by the recurrence relation for n ≥ 2,

with the initial conditions E0(x,α) = 1 and E1(x,α) = x.


The Dn are the unique monic polynomials satisfying the functional equation

where αFq and u ≠ 0 ∈ Fq2.[2]

They also satisfy a composition rule,[2]

The En also satisfy a functional equation[2]

for y ≠ 0, y2α, with αFq and yFq2.

The Dickson polynomial y = Dn is a solution of the ordinary differential equation

and the Dickson polynomial y = En is a solution of the differential equation

Their ordinary generating functions are

Links to other polynomials

Dickson polynomials of the first kind over the complex numbers are related to Chebyshev polynomials Tn(x) = cos (n arccos x) of the first kind by[1]

Using this relation to define Tn over finite fields, this relationship can be extended as follows for odd q. For α ≠ 0 ∈ Fq and βFq2 with β2 = α,[3]

Similar relations hold between Dickson polynomials of the second kind and the Chebyshev polynomials of the second kind, Un.

Since the Dickson polynomial Dn(x,α) can be defined over rings in which α is not a square, and over rings of characteristic 2, in these cases, Dn(x,α) is often not related to a Chebyshev polynomial.

  • The Dickson polynomials with parameter α = −1 are related to the Fibonacci and Lucas polynomials.
  • The Dickson polynomials with parameter α = 0 give monomials:

Permutation polynomials and Dickson polynomials

A permutation polynomial (for a given finite field) is one that acts as a permutation of the elements of the finite field.

The Dickson polynomial Dn(x, α) (considered as a function of x with α fixed) is a permutation polynomial for the field with q elements if and only if n is coprime to q2 − 1.[3]

Fried (1970) proved that any integral polynomial that is a permutation polynomial for infinitely many prime fields is a composition of Dickson polynomials and linear polynomials (with rational coefficients). This assertion has become known as Schur's conjecture, although in fact Schur did not make this conjecture. Since Fried's paper contained numerous errors, a corrected account was given by Turnwald (1995), and subsequently Müller (1997) gave a simpler proof along the lines of an argument due to Schur.

Further, Müller (1997) proved that any permutation polynomial over the finite field Fq whose degree is simultaneously coprime to q and less than q1/4 must be a composition of Dickson polynomials and linear polynomials.


Dickson polynomials of both kinds over finite fields can be thought of as initial members of a sequence of generalized Dickson polynomials referred to as Dickson polynomials of the (k + 1)th kind.[4] Specifically, for α ≠ 0 ∈ Fq with q = pe for some prime p and any integers n ≥ 0 and 0 ≤ k < p, the nth Dickson polynomial of the (k + 1)th kind over Fq, denoted by Dn,k(x,α), is defined by[5]


Dn,0(x,α) = Dn(x,α) and Dn,1(x,α) = En(x,α), showing that this definition unifies and generalizes the original polynomials of Dickson.

The significant properties of the Dickson polynomials also generalize:[6]

  • Recurrence relation: For n ≥ 2,
with the initial conditions D0,k(x,α) = 2 − k and D1,k(x,α) = x.
  • Functional equation:
where y ≠ 0, y2α.
  • Generating function:


  1. ^ a b Lidl & Niederreiter 1983, p. 355
  2. ^ a b c Mullen & Panario 2013, p. 283
  3. ^ a b Lidl & Niederreitter 1983, p. 356
  4. ^ Wang, Q.; Yucas, J. L. (2012), "Dickson polynomials over finite fields", Finite Fields and their Applications, 18: 814–831 
  5. ^ Mullen & Panario 2013, p. 287
  6. ^ Mullen & Panario 2013, p. 288


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