Definition:Exponential Function/Real

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For all definitions of the real exponential function:

The domain of $\exp$ is $\R$
The codomain of $\exp$ is $\R_{>0}$

For $x \in \R$, the real number $\exp x$ is called the exponential of $x$.

As a Sum of a Series

The exponential function can be defined as a power series:

$\exp x := \displaystyle \sum_{n \mathop = 0}^\infty \frac {x^n} {n!}$

As a Limit of a Sequence

The exponential function can be defined as the following limit of a sequence:

$\exp x := \displaystyle \lim_{n \mathop \to +\infty} \paren {1 + \frac x n}^n$

As an Extension of the Rational Exponential

Let $e$ denote Euler's number.

Let $f: \Q \to \R$ denote the real-valued function defined as:

$f \left({ x }\right) = e^x$

That is, let $f \left({ x }\right)$ denote $e$ to the power of $x$, for rational $x$.

Then $\exp : \R \to \R$ is defined to be the unique continuous extension of $f$ to $\R$.

$\exp \left({ x }\right)$ is called the exponential of $x$.

As the Inverse to the Natural Logarithm

Consider the natural logarithm $\ln x$, which is defined on the open interval $\left({0 \,.\,.\, +\infty}\right)$.

From Logarithm is Strictly Increasing:

$\ln x$ is strictly increasing.

From Inverse of Strictly Monotone Function:

the inverse of $\ln x$ always exists.

The inverse of the natural logarithm function is called the exponential function, which is denoted as $\exp$.

Thus for $x \in \R$, we have:

$y = \exp x \iff x = \ln y$

As the Solution of a Differential Equation

The exponential function can be defined as the unique solution $y = f \left({x}\right)$ to the first order ODE:

$\dfrac {\d y} {\d x} = y$

satisfying the initial condition $f \left({0}\right) = 1$.


The exponential of $x$, $\exp x$, is frequently written as $e^x$. The consistency of this power notation is demonstrated in Equivalence of Definitions of Real Exponential Function.

Also see

  • Results about the exponential function can be found here.