In mathematics, and more specifically in abstract algebra, a *-algebra (or involutive algebra; read as "star-algebra") is a mathematical structure consisting of two involutive rings R and A, where R is commutative and A has the structure of an associative algebra over R. Involutive algebras generalize the idea of a number system equipped with conjugation, for example the complex numbers and complex conjugation, matrices over the complex numbers and conjugate transpose, and linear operators over a Hilbert space and Hermitian adjoints. However, it may happen that an algebra admits no involution.[a]



In mathematics, a *-ring is a ring with a map * : AA that is an antiautomorphism and an involution.

More precisely, * is required to satisfy the following properties:[1]

for all x, y in A.

This is also called an involutive ring, involutory ring, and ring with involution. The third axiom is implied by the second and fourth axioms, making it redundant.

Elements such that x* = x are called self-adjoint.[2]

Archetypical examples of a *-ring are fields of complex numbers and algebraic numbers with complex conjugation as the involution. One can define a sesquilinear form over any *-ring.

Also, one can define *-versions of algebraic objects, such as ideal and subring, with the requirement to be *-invariant: xIx* ∈ I and so on.

*-rings are unrelated to star semirings in the theory of computation.


A *-algebra A is a *-ring,[b] with involution * that is an associative algebra over a commutative *-ring R with involution , such that (r x)* = rx*  ∀rR, xA.[3]

The base *-ring R is often the complex numbers (with acting as complex conjugation).

It follows from the axioms that * on A is conjugate-linear in R, meaning

(λ x + μy)* = λx* + μy*

for λ, μR, x, yA.

A *-homomorphism f : AB is an algebra homomorphism that is compatible with the involutions of A and B, i.e.,

Philosophy of the *-operation

The *-operation on a *-ring is analogous to complex conjugation on the complex numbers. The *-operation on a *-algebra is analogous to taking adjoints in complex matrix algebras.


The * involution is a unary operation written with a postfixed star glyph centered above or near the mean line:

xx*, or
xx (TeX: x^*),

but not as "x"; see the asterisk article for details.


Involutive Hopf algebras are important examples of *-algebras (with the additional structure of a compatible comultiplication); the most familiar example being:


Not every algebra admits an involution:

Regard the 2×2 matrices over the complex numbers. Consider the following subalgebra:

Any nontrivial antiautomorphism necessarily has the form:[4]

for any complex number .

It follows that any nontrivial antiautomorphism fails to be involutive:

Concluding that the subalgebra admits no involution.

Additional structures

Many properties of the transpose hold for general *-algebras:

Skew structures

Given a *-ring, there is also the map −* : x ↦ −x*. It does not define a *-ring structure (unless the characteristic is 2, in which case −* is identical to the original *), as 1 ↦ −1, neither is it antimultiplicative, but it satisfies the other axioms (linear, involution) and hence is quite similar to *-algebra where xx*.

Elements fixed by this map (i.e., such that a = −a*) are called skew Hermitian.

For the complex numbers with complex conjugation, the real numbers are the Hermitian elements, and the imaginary numbers are the skew Hermitian.

See also


  1. ^ In this context, involution is taken to mean an involutory antiautomorphism, also known as an anti-involution.
  2. ^ Most definitions do not require a *-algebra to have the unity, i.e. a *-algebra is allowed to be a *-rng only.


  1. ^ Weisstein, Eric W. (2015). "C-Star Algebra". Wolfram MathWorld.
  2. ^ a b c Baez, John (2015). "Octonions". Department of Mathematics. University of California, Riverside. Archived from the original on 26 March 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  3. ^ star-algebra at the nLab
  4. ^ Winker, S. K.; Wos, L.; Lusk, E. L. (1981). "Semigroups, Antiautomorphisms, and Involutions: A Computer Solution to an Open Problem, I". Mathematics of Computation. 37 (156): 533–545. doi:10.2307/2007445. ISSN 0025-5718.