Definition:Equivalence Class

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This page is about Equivalence Class in the context of Relation Theory. For other uses, see Class.


Let $S$ be a set.

Let $\RR \subseteq S \times S$ be an equivalence relation on $S$.

Let $x \in S$.

Then the equivalence class of $x$ under $\RR$ is the set:

$\eqclass x \RR = \set {y \in S: \tuple {x, y} \in \RR}$

If $\RR$ is an equivalence on $S$, then each $t \in S$ that satisfies $\tuple {x, t} \in \RR$ (or $\tuple {t, x} \in \RR$) is called a $\RR$-relative of $x$.

That is, the equivalence class of $x$ under $\RR$ is the set of all $\RR$-relatives of $x$.

Representative of Equivalence Class

Let $\eqclass x \RR$ be the equivalence class of $x$ under $\RR$.

Let $y \in \eqclass x \RR$.

Then $y$ is a representative of $\eqclass x \RR$.


The notation used to denote an equivalence class varies throughout the literature, but is often some variant on the square bracket motif $\eqclass x \RR$.

The symbol used on $\mathsf{Pr} \infty \mathsf{fWiki}$ is a modified version of an attempt to reproduce the heavily-bolded $\sqbrk x_\RR$ found in 1967: George McCarty: Topology: An Introduction with Application to Topological Groups.

Other variants, with selected examples of texts which use those variants:

  • 1965: Seth Warner: Modern Algebra uses $\bigsqcup_\RR \mkern {-28 mu} {\raise 1pt x} \ \ $ for $\eqclass x \RR$, which is even more challenging to render in our installed version of $\LaTeX$ than $\eqclass x \RR$ itself.

Also known as

The equivalence class of $x$ under $\RR$ can also be referred to as:

the equivalence class of $x$ determined by $\RR$
the equivalence class of $x$ with respect to $\RR$
the equivalence class of $x$ modulo $\RR$.

It can be stated more tersely as the $\RR$-equivalence class of $x$, or just the $\RR$-class of $x$.

The term equivalence set can also occasionally be found for equivalence class.

Some sources, for example P.M. Cohn: Algebra Volume 1 (2nd ed.), use the term equivalence block.


Same Age Relation

Let $P$ be the set of people.

Let $\sim$ be the relation on $P$ defined as:

$\forall \tuple {x, y} \in P \times P: x \sim y \iff \text { the age of $x$ and $y$ on their last birthdays was the same}$

Then the equivalence class of $x \in P$ is:

$\eqclass x \sim = \set {\text {All people the same age as $x$ on their last birthday} }$

People Born in Same Year

Let $P$ be the set of people.

Let $\sim$ be the relation on $P$ defined as:

$\forall \tuple {x, y} \in P \times P: x \sim y \iff \text { $x$ and $y$ were born in the same year}$

Then the elements of the equivalence class of $x \in P$ is:

$\eqclass x \sim = \set {\text {All people born in the same year as $x$} }$

Also see

$y \in \eqclass x \RR \iff \paren {x, y} \in \RR$
  • Results about equivalence classes can be found here.

Technical Note

The $\LaTeX$ code for \(\eqclass {x} {\RR}\) is \eqclass {x} {\RR} .

This is a custom construct which has been set up specifically for the convenience of the users of $\mathsf{Pr} \infty \mathsf{fWiki}$.

Note that there are two arguments to this operator: the part between the brackets, and the subscript.

If either part is a single symbol, then the braces can be omitted, for example:

\eqclass x \RR