The trigonometric functions most widely used in modern mathematics are the sine, the cosine, and the tangent. Their reciprocals are respectively the cosecant, the secant, and the cotangent, which are less used. Each of these six trigonometric functions has a corresponding inverse function, and an analog among the hyperbolic functions.
The oldest definitions of trigonometric functions, related to right-angle triangles, define them only for acute angles. To extend the sine and cosine functions to functions whose domain is the whole real line, geometrical definitions using the standard unit circle (i.e., a circle with radius 1 unit) are often used; then the domain of the other functions is the real line with some isolated points removed. Modern definitions express trigonometric functions as infinite series or as solutions of differential equations. This allows extending the domain of sine and cosine functions to the whole complex plane, and the domain of the other trigonometric functions to the complex plane with some isolated points removed.
Right-angled triangle definitions
In this right triangle, denoting the measure of angle BAC as A: sin A = a/c; cos A = b/c; tan A = a/b.
Plot of the six trigonometric functions, the unit circle, and a line for the angle θ = 0.7 radians. The points labelled 1, Sec(θ), Csc(θ) represent the length of the line segment from the origin to that point. Sin(θ), Tan(θ), and 1 are the heights to the line starting from the x-axis, while Cos(θ), 1, and Cot(θ) are lengths along the x-axis starting from the origin.
If the acute angle θ is given, then any right triangles that have an angle of θ are similar to each other. This means that the ratio of any two side lengths depends only on θ. Thus these six ratios define six functions of θ, which are the trigonometric functions. In the following definitions, the hypotenuse is the length of the side opposite the right angle, opposite represents the side opposite the given angle θ, and adjacent represents the side between the angle θ and the right angle.
In a right-angled triangle, the sum of the two acute angles is a right angle, that is, 90° or π/2radians. Therefore and represent the same ratio, and thus are equal. This identity and analagous relationships between the other trigonometric functions are summarized in the following table.
Top: Trigonometric function sin θ for selected angles θ, π − θ, π + θ, and 2π − θ in the four quadrants. Bottom: Graph of sine function versus angle. Angles from the top panel are identified.
Summary of relationships between trigonometric functions
In geometric applications, the argument of a trigonometric function is generally the measure of an angle. For this purpose, any angular unit is convenient, and angles are most commonly measured in conventional units of degrees in which a right angle is 90° and a complete turn is 360° (particularly in elementary mathematics).
However, in calculus and mathematical analysis, the trigonometric functions are generally regarded more abstractly as functions of real or complex numbers, rather than angles. In fact, the functions sin and cos can be defined for all complex numbers in terms of the exponential function via power series or as solutions to differential equations given particular initial values (see below), without reference to any geometric notions. The other four trigonometric functions (tan, cot, sec, csc) can be defined as quotients and reciprocals of sin and cos, except where zero occurs in the denominator. It can be proved, for real arguments, that these definitions coincide with elementary geometric definitions ifthe argument is regarded as an angle given in radians. Moreover, these definitions result in simple expressions for the derivatives and indefinite integrals for the trigonometric functions. Thus, in settings beyond elementary geometry, radians are regarded as the mathematically natural unit for describing angle measures.
When radians (rad) are employed, the angle is given as the length of the arc of the unit circle subtended by it: the angle that subtends an arc of length 1 on the unit circle is 1 rad (≈ 57.3°), and a complete turn (360°) is an angle of 2π (≈ 6.28) rad. For real number x, the notations sin x, cos x, etc. refer to the value of the trigonometric functions evaluated at an angle of x rad. If units of degrees are intended, the degree sign must be explicitly shown (e.g., sin x°, cos x°, etc.). Using this standard notation, the argument x for the trigonometric functions satisfies the relationship x = (180x/π)°, so that, for example, sin π = sin 180° when we take x = π. In this way, the degree symbol can be regarded as a mathematical constant such that 1° = π/180 ≈ 0.0175.
In this illustration, the six trigonometric functions of an arbitrary angle θ are represented as Cartesian coordinates of points related to the unit circle. The ordinates of A, B and D are sin θ, tan θ and csc θ, respectively, while the abscissas of A, C and E are cos θ, cot θ and sec θ, respectively.
Signs of trigonometric functions in each quadrant. The mnemonic "allscience teachers (are) crazy" lists the functions which are positive from quadrants I to IV. This is a variation on the mnemonic "All Students Take Calculus".
The six trigonometric functions can be defined as coordinate values of points on the Euclidean plane that are related to the unit circle, which is the circle of radius one centered at the origin O of this coordinate system. While right-angled triangle definitions allow for the definition of the trigonometric functions for angles between 0 and radian(90°), the unit circle definitions allow the domain of trigonometric functions to be extended to all positive and negative real numbers.
Let be the ray obtained by rotating by an angle θ the positive half of the x-axis (counterclockwise rotation for and clockwise rotation for ). This ray intersects the unit circle at the point The ray extended to a line if necessary, intersects the line of equation at point and the line of equation at point The tangent line to the unit circle at the point A, is perpendicular to and intersects the y- and x-axes at points and The coordinates of these points give the values of all trigonometric functions for any arbitrary real value of θ in the following manner.
The trigonometric functions cos and sin are defined, respectively, as the x- and y-coordinate values of point A. That is,
In the range , this definition coincides with the right-angled triangle definition, by taking the right-angled triangle to have the unit radius OA as hypotenuse. And since the equation holds for all points on the unit circle, this definition of cosine and sine also satisfies the Pythagorean identity.
The other trigonometric functions can be found along the unit circle as
By applying the Pythagorean identity and geometric proof methods, these definitions can readily be shown to coincide with the definitions of tangent, cotangent, secant and cosecant in terms of sine and cosine, that is
Since a rotation of an angle of does not change the position or size of a shape, the points A, B, C, D, and E are the same for two angles whose difference is an integer multiple of . Thus trigonometric functions are periodic functions with period . That is, the equalities
hold for any angle θ and any integerk. The same is true for the four other trigonometric functions. By observing the sign and the monotonicity of the functions sine, cosine, cosecant, and secant in the four quadrants, one can show that 2π is the smallest value for which they are periodic (i.e., 2π is the fundamental period of these functions). However, after a rotation by an angle , the points B and C already return to their original position, so that the tangent function and the cotangent function have a fundamental period of π. That is, the equalities
hold for any angle θ and any integer k.
The unit circle, with some points labeled with their cosine and sine (in this order), and the corresponding angles in radians and degrees.
Writing the numerators as square roots of consecutive non-negative integers, with a denominator of 2, provides an easy way to remember the values.
Such simple expressions generally do not exist for other angles which are rational multiples of a right angle.
For an angle which, measured in degrees, is a multiple of three, the exact trigonometric values of the sine and the cosine may be expressed in terms of square roots. These values of the sine and the cosine may thus be constructed by ruler and compass.
For an angle of an integer number of degrees, the sine and the cosine may be expressed in terms of square roots and the cube root of a non-real complex number. Galois theory allows a proof that, if the angle is not a multiple of 3°, non-real cube roots are unavoidable.
For an angle which, expressed in degrees, is not a rational number, then either the angle or both the sine and the cosine are transcendental numbers. This is a corollary of Baker's theorem, proved in 1966.
The sine function (blue) is closely approximated by its Taylor polynomial of degree 7 (pink) for a full cycle centered on the origin.
Animation for the approximation of cosine via Taylor polynomials.
together with the first Taylor polynomials
The modern trend in mathematics is to build geometry from calculus rather than the converse. Therefore, except at a very elementary level, trigonometric functions are defined using the methods of calculus.
Trigonometric functions are differentiable and analytic at every point where they are defined; that is, everywhere for the sine and the cosine, and, for the tangent, everywhere except at π/2 + kπ for every integer k.
In calculus, there are two equivalent definitions of trigonometric functions, either using power series or differential equations. These definitions are equivalent, as starting from one of them, it is easy to retrieve the other as a property. However the definition through differential equations is somehow more natural, since, for example, the choice of the coefficients of the power series may appear as quite arbitrary, and the Pythagorean identity is much easier to deduce from the differential equations.
Applying the differential equations to power series with indeterminate coefficients, one may deduce recurrence relations for the coefficients of the Taylor series of the sine and cosine functions. These recurrence relations are easy to solve, and give the series expansions
Being defined as fractions of entire functions, the other trigonometric functions may be extended to meromorphic functions, that is functions that are holomorphic in the whole complex plane, except some isolated points called poles. Here, the poles are the numbers of the form for the tangent and the secant, or for the cotangent and the cosecant, where k is an arbitrary integer.
This formula is commonly considered for real values of x, but it remains true for all complex values.
Proof: Let and One has for j = 1, 2. The quotient rule implies thus that . Therefore, is a constant function, which equals 1, as This proves the formula.
Solving this linear system in sine and cosine, one can express them in terms of the exponential function:
When x is real, this may be rewritten as
Most trigonometric identities can be proved by expressing trigonometric functions in terms of the complex exponential function by using above formulas, and then using the identity for simplifying the result.
By taking advantage of domain coloring, it is possible to graph the trigonometric functions as complex-valued functions. Various features unique to the complex functions can be seen from the graph; for example, the sine and cosine functions can be seen to be unbounded as the imaginary part of becomes larger (since the color white represents infinity), and the fact that the functions contain simple zeros or poles is apparent from the fact that the hue cycles around each zero or pole exactly once. Comparing these graphs with those of the corresponding Hyperbolic functions highlights the relationships between the two.
Trigonometric functions in the complex plane
Many identities interrelate the trigonometric functions. This section contains the most basic ones; for more identities, see List of trigonometric identities. These identities may be proved geometrically from the unit-circle definitions or the right-angled-triangle definitions (although, for the latter definitions, care must be taken for angles that are not in the interval [0, π/2], see Proofs of trigonometric identities). For non-geometrical proofs using only tools of calculus, one may use directly the differential equations, in a way that is similar to that of the above proof of Euler's identity. One can also use Euler's identity for expressing all trigonometric functions in terms of complex exponentials and using properties of the exponential function.
All trigonometric functions are periodic functions of period 2π. This is the smallest period, except for the tangent and the cotangent, which have π as smallest period. This means that, for every integer k, one has
The Pythagorean identity, is the expression of the Pythagorean theorem in terms of trigonometric functions. It is
Sum and difference formulas
The sum and difference formulas allow expanding the sine, the cosine, and the tangent of a sum or a difference of two angles in terms of sines and cosines and tangents of the angles themselves. These can be derived geometrically, using arguments that date to Ptolemy. One can also produce them algebraically using Euler's formula.
When the two angles are equal, the sum formulas reduce to simpler equations known as the double-angle formulae.
The trigonometric functions are periodic, and hence not injective, so strictly speaking, they do not have an inverse function. However, on each interval on which a trigonometric function is monotonic, one can define an inverse function, and this defines inverse trigonometric functions as multivalued functions. To define a true inverse function, one must restrict the domain to an interval where the function is monotonic, and is thus bijective from this interval to its image by the function. The common choice for this interval, called the set of principal values, is given in the following table. As usual, the inverse trigonometric functions are denoted with the prefix "arc" before the name or its abbreviation of the function.
Set of principal values
The notations sin−1, cos−1, etc. are often used for arcsin and arccos, etc. When this notation is used, inverse functions could be confused with multiplicative inverses. The notation with the "arc" prefix avoids such a confusion, though "arcsec" for arcsecant can be confused with "arcsecond".
Just like the sine and cosine, the inverse trigonometric functions can also be expressed in terms of infinite series. They can also be expressed in terms of complex logarithms.
In this section A, B, C denote the three (interior) angles of a triangle, and a, b, c denote the lengths of the respective opposite edges. They are related by various formulas, which are named by the trigonometric functions they involve.
It can be proven by dividing the triangle into two right ones and using the above definition of sine. The law of sines is useful for computing the lengths of the unknown sides in a triangle if two angles and one side are known. This is a common situation occurring in triangulation, a technique to determine unknown distances by measuring two angles and an accessible enclosed distance.
The law of cosines (also known as the cosine formula or cosine rule) is an extension of the Pythagorean theorem:
In this formula the angle at C is opposite to the side c. This theorem can be proven by dividing the triangle into two right ones and using the Pythagorean theorem.
The law of cosines can be used to determine a side of a triangle if two sides and the angle between them are known. It can also be used to find the cosines of an angle (and consequently the angles themselves) if the lengths of all the sides are known.
Sinusoidal basis functions (bottom) can form a sawtooth wave (top) when added. All the basis functions have nodes at the nodes of the sawtooth, and all but the fundamental (k = 1) have additional nodes. The oscillation seen about the sawtooth when k is large is called the Gibbs phenomenon
The trigonometric functions are also important in physics. The sine and the cosine functions, for example, are used to describe simple harmonic motion, which models many natural phenomena, such as the movement of a mass attached to a spring and, for small angles, the pendular motion of a mass hanging by a string. The sine and cosine functions are one-dimensional projections of uniform circular motion.
Trigonometric functions also prove to be useful in the study of general periodic functions. The characteristic wave patterns of periodic functions are useful for modeling recurring phenomena such as sound or light waves.
Under rather general conditions, a periodic function f (x) can be expressed as a sum of sine waves or cosine waves in a Fourier series. Denoting the sine or cosine basis functions by φk, the expansion of the periodic function f (t) takes the form:
In the animation of a square wave at top right it can be seen that just a few terms already produce a fairly good approximation. The superposition of several terms in the expansion of a sawtooth wave are shown underneath.
The word sine derives from Latinsinus, meaning "bend; bay", and more specifically "the hanging fold of the upper part of a toga", "the bosom of a garment", which was chosen as the translation of what was interpreted as the Arabic word jaib, meaning "pocket" or "fold" in the twelfth-century translations of works by Al-Battani and al-Khwārizmī into Medieval Latin.
The choice was based on a misreading of the Arabic written form j-y-b (جيب), which itself originated as a transliteration from Sanskrit jīvā, which along with its synonym jyā (the standard Sanskrit term for the sine) translates to "bowstring", being in turn adopted from Ancient Greekχορδή "string".
The word tangent comes from Latin tangens meaning "touching", since the line touches the circle of unit radius, whereas secant stems from Latin secans—"cutting"—since the line cuts the circle.
The prefix "co-" (in "cosine", "cotangent", "cosecant") is found in Edmund Gunter's Canon triangulorum (1620), which defines the cosinus as an abbreviation for the sinus complementi (sine of the complementary angle) and proceeds to define the cotangens similarly.
All Students Take Calculus – a mnemonic for recalling the signs of trigonometric functions in a particular quadrant of a Cartesian plane