Range (mathematics)

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is a function from domain X to codomain Y. The yellow oval inside Y is the image of . Sometimes "range" refers to the image and sometimes to the codomain.

In mathematics, and more specifically in naive set theory, the range of a function refers to either the codomain or the image of the function, depending upon usage. Modern usage almost always uses range to mean image.

The codomain of a function is some arbitrary super-set of image. In real analysis, it is the real numbers. In complex analysis, it is the complex numbers.

The image of a function is the set of all outputs of the function. The image is always a subset of the codomain.

Distinguishing between the two uses

As the term "range" can have different meanings, it is considered a good practice to define it the first time it is used in a textbook or article.

Older books, when they use the word "range", tend to use it to mean what is now called the codomain.[1][2] More modern books, if they use the word "range" at all, generally use it to mean what is now called the image.[3] To avoid any confusion, a number of modern books don't use the word "range" at all.[4]

As an example of the two different usages, consider the function as it is used in real analysis, that is, as a function that inputs a real number and outputs its square. In this case, its codomain is the set of real numbers , but its image is the set of non-negative real numbers , since is never negative if is real. For this function, if we use "range" to mean codomain, it refers to . When we use "range" to mean image, it refers to .

As an example where the range equals the codomain, consider the function , which inputs a real number and outputs its double. For this function, the codomain and the image are the same (the function is a surjection), so the word range is unambiguous; it is the set of all real numbers.

Formal definition

When "range" is used to mean "codomain", the image of a function f is already implicitly defined. It is (by definition of image) the (maybe trivial) subset of the "range" which equals {y | there exists an x in the domain of f such that y = f(x)}.

When "range" is used to mean "image", the range of a function f is by definition {y | there exists an x in the domain of f such that y = f(x)}. In this case, the codomain of f must not be specified, because any codomain which contains this image as a (maybe trivial) subset will work.

In both cases, image f ⊆ range f ⊆ codomain f, with at least one of the containments being equality.

See also


  1. ^ Hungerford 1974, page 3.
  2. ^ Childs 1990, page 140.
  3. ^ Dummit and Foote 2004, page 2.
  4. ^ Rudin 1991, page 99.


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