# Inverse element

## Generalization of additive and multiplicative inverses / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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In mathematics, the concept of an **inverse element** generalises the concepts of opposite (−*x*) and reciprocal (1/*x*) of numbers.

Given an operation denoted here ∗, and an identity element denoted e, if *x* ∗ *y* = *e*, one says that x is a **left inverse** of y, and that y is a **right inverse** of x. (An identity element is an element such that *x* * *e* = *x* and *e* * *y* = *y* for all x and y for which the left-hand sides are defined.[1])

When the operation ∗ is associative, if an element x has both a left inverse and a right inverse, then these two inverses are equal and unique; they are called the *inverse element* or simply the *inverse*. Often an adjective is added for specifying the operation, such as in additive inverse, multiplicative inverse, and functional inverse. In this case (associative operation), an **invertible element** is an element that has an inverse. In a ring, an *invertible element*, also called a unit, is an element that is invertible under multiplication (this is not ambiguous, as every element is invertible under addition).

Inverses are commonly used in groups—where every element is invertible, and rings—where invertible elements are also called units. They are also commonly used for operations that are not defined for all possible operands, such as inverse matrices and inverse functions. This has been generalized to category theory, where, by definition, an isomorphism is an invertible morphism.

The word 'inverse' is derived from Latin: *inversus* that means 'turned upside down', 'overturned'. This may take its origin from the case of fractions, where the (multiplicative) inverse is obtained by exchanging the numerator and the denominator (the inverse of ${\tfrac {x}{y}}$ is ${\tfrac {y}{x}}$).