Image (mathematics)
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Image Mathematics
f is a function from domain X to codomain Y. The yellow oval inside Y is the image of f.

In mathematics, the image of a function is the set of all output values it may produce.

More generally, evaluating a given function f at each element of a given subset A of its domain produces a set, called the "image of A under (or through) f ". Similarly, the inverse image (or preimage) of a given subset B of the codomain of f, is the set of all elements of the domain that map to the members of B.

Image and inverse image may also be defined for general binary relations, not just functions.


The word "image" is used in three related ways. In these definitions, f : X -> Y is a function from the set X to the set Y.

Image of an element

If x is a member of X, then the image of x under f, denoted f(x),[1] is the value of f when applied to x. f(x) is alternatively known as the output of f for argument x.

Image of a subset

The image of a subset A ? X under f, denoted , is the subset of Y which can be defined using set-builder notation as follows:[2][3]

When there is no risk of confusion, is simply written as . This convention is a common one; the intended meaning must be inferred from the context. This makes f[.] a function whose domain is the power set of X (the set of all subsets of X), and whose codomain is the power set of Y. See § Notation below for more.

Image of a function

The image of a function is the image of its entire domain, also known as the range of the function.[4] This usage should be avoided because the word "range" is also commonly used to mean the codomain of f.

Generalization to binary relations

If R is an arbitrary binary relation on X×Y, then the set { y?Y | xRy for some x?X } is called the image, or the range, of R. Dually, the set { x?X | xRy for some y?Y } is called the domain of R.

Inverse image

Let f be a function from X to Y. The preimage or inverse image of a set B ? Y under f, denoted by , is the subset of X defined by

Other notations include f -1 (B)[5] and f - (B).[6] The inverse image of a singleton, denoted by f -1[{y}] or by f -1[y], is also called the fiber or fibre over y or the level set of y. The set of all the fibers over the elements of Y is a family of sets indexed by Y.

For example, for the function f(x) = x2, the inverse image of {4} would be {-2, 2}. Again, if there is no risk of confusion, f -1[B] can be denoted by f -1(B), and f -1 can also be thought of as a function from the power set of Y to the power set of X. The notation f -1 should not be confused with that for inverse function, although it coincides with the usual one for bijections in that the inverse image of B under f is the image of B under f -1.

Notation for image and inverse image

The traditional notations used in the previous section can be confusing. An alternative[7] is to give explicit names for the image and preimage as functions between power sets:

Arrow notation

  • with
  • with

Star notation

  • instead of
  • instead of

Other terminology

  • An alternative notation for f[A] used in mathematical logic and set theory is f "A.[8][9]
  • Some texts refer to the image of f as the range of f, but this usage should be avoided because the word "range" is also commonly used to mean the codomain of f.


  1. f: {1, 2, 3} -> {a, b, c, d} defined by
    The image of the set {2, 3} under f is f({2, 3}) = {a, c}. The image of the function f is {a, c}. The preimage of a is f -1({a}) = {1, 2}. The preimage of {a, b} is also {1, 2}. The preimage of {b, d} is the empty set {}.
  2. f: R -> R defined by f(x) = x2.
    The image of {-2, 3} under f is f({-2, 3}) = {4, 9}, and the image of f is R+ (the set of all positive real numbers and zero). The preimage of {4, 9} under f is f -1({4, 9}) = {-3, -2, 2, 3}. The preimage of set N = {n ? R | n < 0} under f is the empty set, because the negative numbers do not have square roots in the set of reals.
  3. f: R2 -> R defined by f(x, y) = x2 + y2.
    The fibre f -1({a}) are concentric circles about the origin, the origin itself, and the empty set, depending on whether a > 0, a = 0, or a < 0, respectively. (if a > 0, then the fiber f -1({a}) is the set of all (x, y) ? R2 satisfying the equation of the origin-concentric ring x2 + y2 = a.)
  4. If M is a manifold and ?: TM -> M is the canonical projection from the tangent bundle TM to M, then the fibres of ? are the tangent spaces Tx(M) for x?M. This is also an example of a fiber bundle.
  5. A quotient group is a homomorphic image.


Counter-examples based on the real numbers
defined by
showing that equality generally need
not hold for some laws:
Image showing non-equal sets: The sets and are shown in blue immediately below the -axis while their intersection is shown in green.


For every function and all subsets and the following properties hold:

Image Preimage

(equal if , e.g. is surjective)[10][11]

(equal if is injective)[10][11]
[12] [12]
[12] [12]


Multiple functions

For functions and with subsets and the following properties hold:

Multiple subsets of domain or codomain

For function and subsets and the following properties hold:

Image Preimage
(equal if is injective[14])
(equal if is injective[14])

(equal if is injective)

The results relating images and preimages to the (Boolean) algebra of intersection and union work for any collection of subsets, not just for pairs of subsets:

(Here, S can be infinite, even uncountably infinite.)

With respect to the algebra of subsets described above, the inverse image function is a lattice homomorphism, while the image function is only a semilattice homomorphism (i.e., it does not always preserve intersections).

See also


  1. ^ "Compendium of Mathematical Symbols". Math Vault. 2020-03-01. Retrieved .
  2. ^ "5.4: Onto Functions and Images/Preimages of Sets". Mathematics LibreTexts. 2019-11-05. Retrieved .
  3. ^ Paul R. Halmos (1968). Naive Set Theory. Princeton: Nostrand. Here: Sect.8
  4. ^ Weisstein, Eric W. "Image". Retrieved .
  5. ^ "Comprehensive List of Algebra Symbols". Math Vault. 2020-03-25. Retrieved .
  6. ^ Dolecki & Mynard 2016, pp. 4-5.
  7. ^ Blyth 2005, p. 5.
  8. ^ Jean E. Rubin (1967). Set Theory for the Mathematician. Holden-Day. p. xix. ASIN B0006BQH7S.
  9. ^ M. Randall Holmes: Inhomogeneity of the urelements in the usual models of NFU, December 29, 2005, on: Semantic Scholar, p. 2
  10. ^ a b c See Halmos 1960, p. 39
  11. ^ a b See Munkres 2000, p. 19
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h See p.388 of Lee, John M. (2010). Introduction to Topological Manifolds, 2nd Ed.
  13. ^ a b Kelley 1985, p. 85
  14. ^ a b See Munkres 2000, p. 21


This article incorporates material from Fibre on PlanetMath, which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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