# well-defined

A mathematical concept is well-defined (German wohldefiniert, French bien défini), if its contents is on the form or the alternative representative which is used for defining it.

For example, in defining the http://planetmath.org/FractionPowerpower $x^{r}$ with $x$ a positive real and $r$ a rational number   , we can freely choose the fraction form $\frac{m}{n}$ ($m\in\mathbb{Z}$,  $n\in\mathbb{Z}_{+}$) of $r$ and take

 $x^{r}\;:=\;\sqrt[n]{x^{m}}$

and be sure that the value of $x^{r}$ does not depend on that choice (this is justified in the entry fraction power). So, the $x^{r}$ is well-defined.

In many instances well-defined is a synonym for the formal definition of a function between sets. For example, the function  $f(x):=x^{2}$  is a well-defined function from the real numbers to the real numbers because every input, $x$, is assigned to precisely one output, $x^{2}$. However,  $f(x):=\pm\sqrt{x}$  is not well-defined in that one input $x$ can be assigned any one of two possible outputs, $\sqrt{x}$ or $-\sqrt{x}$.

More subtle examples include expressions such as

 $f\!\left(\frac{a}{b}\right)\;:=\;a\!+\!b,\quad\frac{a}{b}\in\mathbb{Q}.$

Certainly every input has an output, for instance,  $f(1/2)=3$. However, the expression is not well-defined since  $1/2=2/4$  yet  $f(1/2)=3$  while  $f(2/4)=6$  and  $3\neq 6$.

One must question whether a function is well-defined whenever it is defined on a domain of equivalence classes   in such a manner that each output is determined for a representative of each equivalence class. For example, the function  $f(a/b):=a\!+\!b$  was defined using the representative $a/b$ of the equivalence class of fractions equivalent    to $a/b$.

Title well-defined Welldefined 2013-03-22 17:31:32 2013-03-22 17:31:32 pahio (2872) pahio (2872) 9 pahio (2872) Definition msc 00A05 well defined function WellDefinednessOfProductOfFinitelyGeneratedIdeals