In mathematics and theoretical physics, a tensor is antisymmetric on (or with respect to) an index subset if it alternates sign (+/−) when any two indices of the subset are interchanged.[1][2] The index subset must generally either be all covariant or all contravariant.

For example,

${\displaystyle T_{ijk\dots }=-T_{jik\dots }=T_{jki\dots }=-T_{kji\dots }=T_{kij\dots }=-T_{ikj\dots ))$
holds when the tensor is antisymmetric with respect to its first three indices.

If a tensor changes sign under exchange of each pair of its indices, then the tensor is completely (or totally) antisymmetric. A completely antisymmetric covariant tensor field of order ${\displaystyle k}$ may be referred to as a differential ${\displaystyle k}$-form, and a completely antisymmetric contravariant tensor field may be referred to as a ${\displaystyle k}$-vector field.

## Antisymmetric and symmetric tensors

A tensor A that is antisymmetric on indices ${\displaystyle i}$ and ${\displaystyle j}$ has the property that the contraction with a tensor B that is symmetric on indices ${\displaystyle i}$ and ${\displaystyle j}$ is identically 0.

For a general tensor U with components ${\displaystyle U_{ijk\dots ))$ and a pair of indices ${\displaystyle i}$ and ${\displaystyle j,}$ U has symmetric and antisymmetric parts defined as:

 ${\displaystyle U_{(ij)k\dots }={\frac {1}{2))(U_{ijk\dots }+U_{jik\dots })}$ (symmetric part) ${\displaystyle U_{[ij]k\dots }={\frac {1}{2))(U_{ijk\dots }-U_{jik\dots })}$ (antisymmetric part).

Similar definitions can be given for other pairs of indices. As the term "part" suggests, a tensor is the sum of its symmetric part and antisymmetric part for a given pair of indices, as in

${\displaystyle U_{ijk\dots }=U_{(ij)k\dots }+U_{[ij]k\dots }.}$

## Notation

A shorthand notation for anti-symmetrization is denoted by a pair of square brackets. For example, in arbitrary dimensions, for an order 2 covariant tensor M,

${\displaystyle M_{[ab]}={\frac {1}{2!))(M_{ab}-M_{ba}),}$
and for an order 3 covariant tensor T,
${\displaystyle T_{[abc]}={\frac {1}{3!))(T_{abc}-T_{acb}+T_{bca}-T_{bac}+T_{cab}-T_{cba}).}$

In any 2 and 3 dimensions, these can be written as

{\displaystyle {\begin{aligned}M_{[ab]}&={\frac {1}{2!))\,\delta _{ab}^{cd}M_{cd},\\[2pt]T_{[abc]}&={\frac {1}{3!))\,\delta _{abc}^{def}T_{def}.\end{aligned))}
where ${\displaystyle \delta _{ab\dots }^{cd\dots ))$ is the generalized Kronecker delta, and we use the Einstein notation to summation over like indices.

More generally, irrespective of the number of dimensions, antisymmetrization over ${\displaystyle p}$ indices may be expressed as

${\displaystyle T_{[a_{1}\dots a_{p}]}={\frac {1}{p!))\delta _{a_{1}\dots a_{p))^{b_{1}\dots b_{p))T_{b_{1}\dots b_{p)).}$

In general, every tensor of rank 2 can be decomposed into a symmetric and anti-symmetric pair as:

${\displaystyle T_{ij}={\frac {1}{2))(T_{ij}+T_{ji})+{\frac {1}{2))(T_{ij}-T_{ji}).}$

This decomposition is not in general true for tensors of rank 3 or more, which have more complex symmetries.

## Examples

Totally antisymmetric tensors include:

## Notes

1. ^ K.F. Riley; M.P. Hobson; S.J. Bence (2010). Mathematical methods for physics and engineering. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-86153-3.
2. ^ Juan Ramón Ruíz-Tolosa; Enrique Castillo (2005). From Vectors to Tensors. Springer. p. 225. ISBN 978-3-540-22887-5. section §7.