Algebraic structure

In mathematics, an algebraic structure consists of a nonempty set A (called the underlying set, carrier set or domain), a collection of operations on A of finite arity (typically binary operations), and a finite set of identities, known as axioms, that these operations must satisfy.

An algebraic structure may be based on other algebraic structures with operations and axioms involving several structures. For instance, a vector space involves a second structure called a field, and an operation called scalar multiplication between elements of the field (called scalars), and elements of the vector space (called vectors).

Abstract algebra is the name that is commonly given to the study of algebraic structures. The general theory of algebraic structures has been formalized in universal algebra. Category theory is another formalization that includes also other mathematical structures and functions between structures of the same type (homomorphisms).

In universal algebra, an algebraic structure is called an algebra;[1] this term may be ambiguous, since, in other contexts, an algebra is an algebraic structure that is a vector space over a field or a module over a commutative ring.

The collection of all structures of a given type (same operations and same laws) is called a variety in universal algebra; this term is also used with a completely different meaning in algebraic geometry, as an abbreviation of algebraic variety. In category theory, the collection of all structures of a given type and homomorphisms between them form a concrete category.


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