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Morphism

In many ﬁelds of mathematics, morphism refers to a ations are deﬁned, that is when the target of f is the
structure-preserving map from one mathematical struc- source of g, and the target of g is the source of h.
ture to another. The notion of morphism recurs in much
of contemporary mathematics. In set theory, morphisms For a concrete category (that is the objects are sets with
are functions; in linear algebra, linear transformations;
additional structure, and of the morphisms as structure-
in group theory, group homomorphisms; in topology, preserving functions), the identity morphism is just the
continuous functions, and so on. identity function, and composition is just the ordinary
In category theory, morphism is a broadly similar idea, composition of functions. Associativity then follows, be-
but somewhat more abstract: the mathematical objects cause the composition of functions is associative.
involved need not be sets, and the relationship between The composition of morphisms is often represented by a
them may be something more general than a map. commutative diagram. For example,
The study of morphisms and of the structures (called “ob-
jects”) over which they are deﬁned is central to category
theory. Much of the terminology of morphisms, as well
as the intuition underlying them, comes from concrete
categories, where the objects are simply sets with some ad-
ditional structure, and morphisms are structure-preserving
functions. In category theory, morphisms are sometimes
also called arrows.

The collection of all morphisms from X to Y is denoted

1 Deﬁnition homC(X,Y) or simply hom(X, Y) and called the hom-
set between X and Y. Some authors write MorC(X,Y),
A category C consists of two classes, one of objects and Mor(X, Y) or C(X, Y). Note that the term hom-set is
the other of morphisms. something of a misnomer as the collection of morphisms
is not required to be a set. A category where hom(X, Y)
There are two objects that are associated to every mor-
is a set for all objects X and Y is called locally small.
phism, the source and the target.
Note that the domain and codomain are in fact part of the
For many common categories, objects are sets (usually
information determining a morphism. For example, in
with more structure) and morphisms are functions from
the category of sets, where morphisms are functions, two
an object to another object. Therefore, the source and
functions may be identical as sets of ordered pairs (may
the target of a morphism are often called domain and
have the same range), while having diﬀerent codomains.
codomain respectively.
The two functions are distinct from the viewpoint of cat-
A morphism f with source X and target Y is written f : X egory theory. Thus many authors require that the hom-
→ Y. Thus a morphism is represented by an arrow from classes hom(X, Y) be disjoint. In practice, this is not a
its source to its target. problem because if this disjointness does not hold, it can
Morphisms are equipped with a partial binary operation, be assured by appending the domain and codomain to the
called composition. The composition of two morphisms f morphisms, (say, as the second and third components of
and g is deﬁned if and only if the target of f is the source an ordered triple).
of g, and is denoted g∘f. The source of g∘f is the source of
f, and the target of g∘f is the target of g. The composition
satisﬁes two axioms: 2 Some special morphisms
Identity For every object X, there exists a morphism idX
: X → X called the identity morphism on X, such
2.1 Monomorphisms and epimorphisms
that for every morphism f : A → B we have idB ∘ f
A morphism f: X → Y is called a monomorphism if f ∘
= f = f ∘ idA.
g1 = f ∘ g2 implies g1 = g2 for all morphisms g1 , g2 : Z →
Associativity h ∘ (g ∘ f) = (h ∘ g) ∘ f whenever the oper- X. It is also called a mono or a monic.

1

• A morphism f has a left inverse if there is a mor- or equivalent. Note that while every isomorphism is a
phism g: Y → X such that g ∘ f = idX. The left in- bimorphism, a bimorphism is not necessarily an isomor-
verse g is also called a retraction of f. Morphisms
phism. For example, in the category of commutative
with left inverses are always monomorphisms, but rings the inclusion Z → Q is a bimorphism that is not
the converse is not always true in every category; aan isomorphism. However, any morphism that is both
monomorphism may fail to have a left-inverse. an epimorphism and a split monomorphism, or both a
monomorphism and a split epimorphism, must be an iso-
• A split monomorphism h: X → Y is a monomor- morphism. A category, such as Set, in which every bi-
phism having a left inverse g: Y → X, so that g ∘ h morphism is an isomorphism is known as a balanced cat-
= idX. Thus h ∘ g: Y → Y is idempotent; that is, (h egory.
∘ g)2 = h ∘ (g ∘ h) ∘ g = h ∘ g.

• In concrete categories, a function that has a left

inverse is injective. Thus in concrete categories,
2.3 Endomorphisms and automorphisms
monomorphisms are often, but not always, injective.
The condition of being an injection is stronger than A morphism f: X → X (that is, a morphism with identi-
that of being a monomorphism, but weaker than that cal source and target) is an endomorphism of X. A split
of being a split monomorphism. endomorphism is an idempotent endomorphism f if f
admits a decomposition f = h ∘ g with g ∘ h = id. In par-
ticular, the Karoubi envelope of a category splits every
Dually to monomorphisms, a morphism f: X → Y is idempotent morphism.
called an epimorphism if g1 ∘ f = g2 ∘ f implies g1 =
g2 for all morphisms g1 , g2 : Y → Z. It is also called an An automorphism is a morphism that is both an endo-
epi or an epic. morphism and an isomorphism. In every category, the
automorphisms of an object form always a group, called
the automorphism group of the object.
• A morphism f has a right-inverse if there is a mor-
phism g: Y → X such that f ∘ g = idY. The right
inverse g is also called a section of f. Morphisms
having a right inverse are always epimorphisms, but 3 Examples
the converse is not always true in every category, as
an epimorphism may fail to have a right inverse. • In the concrete categories studied in universal al-
gebra (groups, rings, modules, etc.), morphisms
• A split epimorphism is an epimorphism having a
are usually homomorphisms. Likewise, the notions
right inverse. If a monomorphism f splits with left-
of automorphism, endomorphism, epimorphism,
inverse g, then g is a split epimorphism with right-
homeomorphism, isomorphism, and monomor-
inverse f.
phism all ﬁnd use in universal algebra.
• In concrete categories, a function that has a right
inverse is surjective. Thus in concrete categories, • In the category of topological spaces, morphisms are
epimorphisms are often, but not always, surjective. continuous functions and isomorphisms are called
The condition of being a surjection is stronger than homeomorphisms.
that of being an epimorphism, but weaker than that
• In the category of smooth manifolds, morphisms
of being a split epimorphism. In the category of sets,
are smooth functions and isomorphisms are called
every surjection has a section, a result equivalent to
diﬀeomorphisms.
the axiom of choice.
• In the category of small categories, functors can be
A morphism that is both an epimorphism and a thought of as morphisms.
monomorphism is called a bimorphism.
• In a functor category, the morphisms are natural
transformations.
2.2 Isomorphisms
For more examples, see the entry category theory.
A morphism f: X → Y is called an isomorphism if there
exists a morphism g: Y → X such that f ∘ g = idY and g
∘ f = idX. If a morphism has both left-inverse and right-
inverse, then the two inverses are equal, so f is an iso- 4 See also
morphism, and g is called simply the inverse of f. In-
verse morphisms, if they exist, are unique. The inverse g • Normal morphism
is also an isomorphism with inverse f. Two objects with
an isomorphism between them are said to be isomorphic • Zero morphism
3

5 Notes
 Jacobson (2009), p. 15.

6 References
• Jacobson, Nathan (2009), Basic algebra, 2 (2nd ed.),
Dover, ISBN 978-0-486-47187-7.

• Adámek, Jiří; Herrlich, Horst; Strecker, George E.

(1990). Abstract and Concrete Categories (PDF).
John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-60922-6. Now
available as free on-line edition (4.2MB PDF).

• Hazewinkel, Michiel, ed. (2001), “Morphism”,
Encyclopedia of Mathematics, Springer, ISBN 978-
1-55608-010-4
• “Category”. PlanetMath.

• “TypesOfMorphisms”. PlanetMath.
4 8 TEXT AND IMAGE SOURCES, CONTRIBUTORS, AND LICENSES

8 Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses

8.1 Text
• Morphism Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morphism?oldid=772621417 Contributors: AxelBoldt, Bryan Derksen, The Anome,
Michael Hardy, Kku, TakuyaMurata, Looxix~enwiki, Glenn, Ciphergoth, Aragorn2, Revolver, Dysprosia, Greenrd, Phys, Jose Ramos,
Robbot, Wikibot, Tea2min, Giftlite, Mikez, Lethe, Fropuﬀ, Semorrison, Edcolins, Alberto da Calvairate~enwiki, Sam Hocevar, Porges,
Smimram, Paul August, Elwikipedista~enwiki, Ntmatter, Blotwell, Msh210, Bonotake, Oleg Alexandrov, Linas, Graham87, Salix alba,
FlaBot, Chobot, YurikBot, Archelon, Voidxor, Weppens, Jsnx, SmackBot, BiT, IstvanWolf, Kmarinas86, Jon Awbrey, Bart v M, Vina-
iwbot~enwiki, Pthag, RekishiEJ, Sjef~enwiki, Xantharius, Odoncaoa, JamesBWatson, Albmont, Michael K. Edwards, Policron, Hotfeba,
LokiClock, Tkeu, He7d3r, Cenarium, Palnot, Addbot, PV=nRT, Jarble, Simon J Kissane, AnomieBOT, DannyAsher, Dobes vandermeer,
Gwideman, RandomDSdevel, I dream of horses, Heurisko, Slawekb, D.Lazard, Gorobay, Brad7777, Mark viking, David9550, LarsHugo,
Y2N1-09631, Equinox, Chemistry1111, Alexselih and Anonymous: 34

8.2 Images
• File:Commutative_diagram_for_morphism.svg Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/Commutative_
diagram_for_morphism.svg License: Public domain Contributors: Own work, based on en:Image:MorphismComposition-01.png Original
artist: User:Cepheus
• File:Text_document_with_red_question_mark.svg Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a4/Text_document_
with_red_question_mark.svg License: Public domain Contributors: Created by bdesham with Inkscape; based upon Text-x-generic.svg
from the Tango project. Original artist: Benjamin D. Esham (bdesham)