In mathematics, and more specifically in naive set theory, the domain of definition (or simply the domain) of a function is the set of "input" or argument values for which the function is defined. That is, the function provides an "output" or value for each member of the domain. Conversely, the set of values the function takes on as output is termed the image of the function, which is sometimes also referred to as the range of the function.
If the domain of a function is a subset of the real numbers and the function is represented in a Cartesian coordinate system, then the domain is represented on the X-axis.
Given a function , the set is the domain of ; the set is the codomain of . In the expression , is the argument and is the value. One can think of an argument as a member of the domain that is chosen as an "input" to the function, and the value as the "output" when the function is applied to that member of the domain.
The image (sometimes called the range) of is the set of all values assumed by for all possible ; this is the set . The image of can be the same set as the codomain or it can be a proper subset of it. It is, in general, smaller than the codomain; it is the whole codomain if and only if is a surjective function.
A well-defined function must map every element of its domain to an element of its codomain. For example, the function defined by
has no value for . Thus, the set of all real numbers, , cannot be its domain. In cases like this, the function is either defined on or the "gap is plugged" by explicitly defining . If we extend the definition of to
then f is defined for all real numbers, and its domain is .
The natural domain of a function is the maximum set of values for which the function is defined, typically within the reals but sometimes among the integers or complex numbers. For instance the natural domain of square root is the non-negative reals when considered as a real number function. When considering a natural domain, the set of possible values of the function is typically called its range.
There are two distinct meanings in current mathematical usage for the notion of the domain of a partial function from X to Y, i.e. a function from a subset X' of X to Y. Most mathematicians, including recursion theorists, use the term "domain of f" for the set X' of all values x such that f(x) is defined. But some, particularly category theorists, consider the domain to be X, irrespective of whether f(x) exists for every x in X.
In category theory one deals with morphisms instead of functions. Morphisms are arrows from one object to another. The domain of any morphism is the object from which an arrow starts. In this context, many set theoretic ideas about domains must be abandoned or at least formulated more abstractly. For example, the notion of restricting a morphism to a subset of its domain must be modified. See subobject for more.
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