parallelepiped n : a prism whose bases are parallelograms [syn: parallelopiped, parallelepipedon, parallelopipedon]
In geometry, a parallelepiped''' (now usually ; traditionally /ˌpærəlɛlˈʔɛpɪpɛd/ in accordance with its etymology in Greek παραλληλ-επίπεδον, a body "having parallel planes") is a three-dimensional figure formed by six parallelograms. Three equivalent definitions of parallelepiped are
- a polyhedron with six faces (hexahedron), each of which is a parallelogram,
- a hexahedron with three pairs of parallel faces.
- a prism of which the base is a parallelogram,
Parallelepipeds are a subclass of the prismatoids.
PropertiesAny of the three pairs of parallel faces can be viewed as the base planes of the prism. A parallelepiped has three sets of four parallel edges; the edges within each set are of equal length.
Parallelepipeds result from linear transformations of a cube (for the non-degenerate cases: the bijective linear transformations).
Since each face has point symmetry, a parallelepiped is a zonohedron. Also the whole parallelepiped has point symmetry Ci (see also triclinic). Each face is, seen from the outside, the mirror image of the opposite face. The faces are in general chiral, but the parallelepiped is not.
VolumeThe volume of a parallelepiped is the product of the area of its base A and its height h. The base is any of the six faces of the parallelepiped. The height is the perpendicular distance between the base and the opposite face.
An alternative method defines the vectors a = (a1, a2, a3), b = (b1, b2, b3) and c = (c1, c2, c3) to represent three edges that meet at one vertex. The volume of the parallelepiped then equals the absolute value of the scalar triple product a · (b × c):
- V = |\mathbf \cdot (\mathbf \times \mathbf)| = |\mathbf \cdot (\mathbf \times \mathbf)| = |\mathbf \cdot (\mathbf \times \mathbf)|
This is true because, if we choose b and c to represent the edges of the base, the area of the base is, by definition of the cross product (see geometric meaning of cross product),
- A = |b| |c| sin θ = |b × c|,
- h = |a| cos α,
From the figure, we can deduce that the magnitude of α is limited to 0° ≤ α < 90°. On the contrary, the vector b × c may form with a an internal angle β larger than 90° (0° ≤ β ≤ 180°). Namely, since b × c is parallel to h, the value of β is either β = α or β = 180° − α. So
- cos α = ±cos β = |cos β|,
- h = |a| |cos β|.
- V = Ah = |a| |b × c| |cos β|,
The latter expression is also equivalent to the absolute value of the determinant of a matrix built using a, b and c as rows (or columns):
- V = \left| \det \begin
Special casesFor parallelepipeds with a symmetry plane there are two cases:
- it has four rectangular faces
- it has two rhombic faces, while of the other faces, two adjacent ones are equal and the other two also (the two pairs are each other's mirror image).
A cuboid, also called a rectangular parallelepiped, is a parallelepiped of which all faces are rectangular; a cube is a cuboid with square faces.
A rhombohedron is a parallelepiped with all rhombic faces; a trigonal trapezohedron is a rhombohedron with congruent rhombic faces.
Coxeter called the generalization of a parallelepiped in higher dimensions a parallelotope.
Specifically in n-dimensional space it is called n-dimensional parallelotope, or simply n-parallelotope. Thus a parallelogram is a 2-parallelotope and a parallelepiped is a 3-parallelotope.
The diagonals of an n-parallelotope intersect at one point and are bisected by this point. Inversion in this point leaves the n-parallelotope unchanged. See also fixed points of isometry groups in Euclidean space.
The n-volume of an n-parallelotope embedded in \mathbb^m where m \ge n can be computed by means of the Gram determinant.
LexicographyThe word appears as parallelipipedon in Sir Henry Billingsley's translation of Euclid's Elements, dated 1570. In the 1644 edition of his Cursus mathematicus, Pierre Hérigone used the spelling parallelepipedum. The OED cites the present-day parallelepiped as first appearing in Walter Charleton's Chorea gigantum (1663).
Charles Hutton's Dictionary (1795) shows parallelopiped and parallelopipedon, showing the influence of the combining form parallelo-, as if the second element were pipedon rather than epipedon. Noah Webster (1806) includes the spelling parallelopiped. The 1989 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary describes parallelopiped (and parallelipiped) explicitly as incorrect forms, but these are listed without comment in the 2004 edition, and only pronunciations with the emphasis on the fifth syllable pi (/paɪ/) are given.
A change away from the traditional pronunciation has hidden the different partition suggested by the Greek roots, with epi- ("on") and pedon ("ground") combining to give epiped, a flat "plane". Thus the faces of a parallelepiped are planar, with opposite faces being parallel. (This is the same epi- used when we say a mapping is an epimorphism/surjection/onto.)