AskDefine | Define proximity

Dictionary Definition



1 the property of being close together [syn: propinquity]
2 the region close around a person or thing
3 a Gestalt principle of organization holding that (other things being equal) objects or events that are near to one another (in space or time) are perceived as belonging together as a unit [syn: law of proximity]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. closeness; the state of being near as in distance, time, or relationship.
    The proximity of the heat source allowed it to be detected by the sensor.


Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Distance is a numerical description of how far apart objects are. In physics or everyday discussion, distance may refer to a physical length, a period of time, or an estimation based on other criteria (e.g. "two counties over"). In mathematics, distance must meet more rigorous criteria.
In most cases there is symmetry and "distance from A to B" is interchangeable with "distance between B and A".



In neutral geometry, the minimum distance between two points is the length of the line segment between them.
In analytic geometry, the distance between two points of the xy-plane can be found using the distance formula. The distance between (x1, y1) and (x2, y2) is given by
Similarly, given points (x1, y1, z1) and (x2, y2, z2) in three-space, the distance between them is
Which is easily proven by constructing a right triangle with a leg on the hypotenuse of another (with the other leg orthogonal to the plane that contains the 1st triangle) and applying the Pythagorean theorem.
In the study of complicated geometries, we call this (most common) type of distance Euclidean distance, as it is derived from the Pythagorean theorem, which does not hold in Non-Euclidean geometries. This distance formula can also be expanded into the arc-length formula.

Distance in Euclidean space

In the Euclidean space Rn, the distance between two points is usually given by the Euclidean distance (2-norm distance). Other distances, based on other norms, are sometimes used instead.
For a point (x1, x2, ...,xn) and a point (y1, y2, ...,yn), the Minkowski distance of order p (p-norm distance) is defined as: p need not be an integer, but it cannot be less than 1, because otherwise the triangle inequality does not hold.
The 2-norm distance is the Euclidean distance, a generalization of the Pythagorean theorem to more than two coordinates. It is what would be obtained if the distance between two points were measured with a ruler: the "intuitive" idea of distance.
The 1-norm distance is more colourfully called the taxicab norm or Manhattan distance, because it is the distance a car would drive in a city laid out in square blocks (if there are no one-way streets).
The infinity norm distance is also called Chebyshev distance. In 2D it represents the distance kings must travel between two squares on a chessboard.
The p-norm is rarely used for values of p other than 1, 2, and infinity, but see; super ellipse.
In physical space the Euclidean distance is in a way the most natural one, because in this case the length of a rigid body does not change with rotation.

General case

In mathematics, in particular geometry, a distance function on a given set M is a function d: M×M → R, where R denotes the set of real numbers, that satisfies the following conditions:
  • d(x,y) ≥ 0, and d(x,y) = 0 if and only if x = y. (Distance is positive between two different points, and is zero precisely from a point to itself.)
  • It is symmetric: d(x,y) = d(y,x). (The distance between x and y is the same in either direction.)
  • It satisfies the triangle inequality: d(x,z) ≤ d(x,y) + d(y,z). (The distance between two points is the shortest distance along any path).
Such a distance function is known as a metric. Together with the set, it makes up a metric space.
For example, the usual definition of distance between two real numbers x and y is: d(x,y) = |x − y|. This definition satisfies the three conditions above, and corresponds to the standard topology of the real line. But distance on a given set is a definitional choice. Another possible choice is to define: d(x,y) = 0 if x = y, and 1 otherwise. This also defines a metric, but gives a completely different topology, the "discrete topology"; with this definition numbers cannot be arbitrarily close.

Distances between sets and between a point and a set

Various distance definitions are possible between objects. For example, between celestial bodies one should not confuse the surface-to-surface distance and the center-to-center distance. If the former is much less than the latter, as for a LEO, the first tends to be quoted (altitude), otherwise, e.g. for the Earth-Moon distance, the latter.
There are two common definitions for the distance between two non-empty subsets of a given set:
  • One version of distance between two non-empty sets is the infimum of the distances between any two of their respective points, which is the every-day meaning of the word. This is a symmetric prametric. On a collection of sets of which some touch or overlap each other, it is not "separating", because the distance between two different but touching or overlapping sets is zero. Also it is not hemimetric, i.e., the triangle inequality does not hold, except in special cases. Therefore only in special cases this distance makes a collection of sets a metric space.
  • The Hausdorff distance is the larger of two values, one being the supremum, for a point ranging over one set, of the infimum, for a second point ranging over the other set, of the distance between the points, and the other value being likewise defined but with the roles of the two sets swapped. This distance makes the set of non-empty compact subsets of a metric space itself a metric space.
The is the infimum of the distances between the point and those in the set. This corresponds to the distance, according to the first-mentioned definition above of the distance between sets, from the set containing only this point to the other set.
In terms of this, the definition of the Hausdorff distance can be simplified: it is the larger of two values, one being the supremum, for a point ranging over one set, of the distance between the point and the set, and the other value being likewise defined but with the roles of the two sets swapped.

Distance versus displacement

Distance cannot be negative. Distance is a scalar quantity, containing only a magnitude, whereas displacement is an equivalent vector quantity containing both magnitude and direction.
The distance covered by a vehicle (often recorded by an odometer), person, animal, object, etc. should be distinguished from the distance from starting point to end point, even if latter is taken to mean e.g. the shortest distance along the road, because a detour could be made, and the end point can even coincide with the starting point.

See also


  • E. Deza, M.M. Deza, Dictionary of Distances, Elsevier (2006) ISBN 0-444-52087-2
proximity in Arabic: مسافة
proximity in Bulgarian: Разстояние
proximity in Catalan: Distància
proximity in Czech: Vzdálenost
proximity in Danish: Distance
proximity in German: Abstand
proximity in Modern Greek (1453-): Απόσταση
proximity in Spanish: Distancia
proximity in Esperanto: Distanco
proximity in Basque: Luzera
proximity in French: Distance (mathématiques)
proximity in Galician: Distancia
proximity in Korean: 거리
proximity in Ido: Disto
proximity in Indonesian: Jarak
proximity in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Distantia
proximity in Icelandic: Fjarlægðarformúlan
proximity in Italian: Distanza
proximity in Luxembourgish: Ofstand
proximity in Malay (macrolanguage): Jarak
proximity in Dutch: Afstand
proximity in Japanese: 距離
proximity in Polish: Odległość
proximity in Portuguese: Distância
proximity in Russian: Расстояние
proximity in Simple English: Distance
proximity in Slovak: Vzdialenosť
proximity in Slovenian: Razdalja
proximity in Swedish: Avstånd
proximity in Thai: ระยะทาง
proximity in Vietnamese: Khoảng cách
proximity in Urdu: فاصلہ (ریاضی)
proximity in Yiddish: ווייטקייט
proximity in Chinese: 距离
proximity in Finnish: Välimatka

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1