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In group theory, the **wreath product** is a special combination of two groups based on the semidirect product. It is formed by the action of one group on many copies of another group, somewhat analogous to exponentiation. Wreath products are used in the classification of permutation groups and also provide a way of constructing interesting examples of groups.

Given two groups and (sometimes known as the *bottom* and *top*^{[1]}), there exist two variants of the wreath product: the **unrestricted wreath product** and the **restricted wreath product** . The general form, denoted by or respectively, requires that acts on some set ; when unspecified, usually (a **regular wreath product**), though a different is sometimes implied. The two variants coincide when , , and are all finite. Either variant is also denoted as (with **\wr** for the LaTeX symbol) or *A* ≀ *H* (Unicode U+2240).

The notion generalizes to semigroups and, as such, is a central construction in the Krohn–Rhodes structure theory of finite semigroups.

Let be a group and let be a group acting on a set (on the left). The direct product of with itself indexed by is the set of sequences in , indexed by , with a group operation given by pointwise multiplication. The action of on can be extended to an action on by *reindexing*, namely by defining

for all and all .

Then the **unrestricted wreath product** of by is the semidirect product with the action of on given above. The subgroup of is called the **base** of the wreath product.

The **restricted wreath product** is constructed in the same way as the unrestricted wreath product except that one uses the direct sum as the base of the wreath product. In this case, the base consists of all sequences in with finitely many non-identity entries. The two definitions coincide when is finite.

In the most common case, , and acts on itself by left multiplication. In this case, the unrestricted and restricted wreath product may be denoted by and respectively. This is called the **regular** wreath product.

The structure of the wreath product of *A* by *H* depends on the *H*-set Ω and in case Ω is infinite it also depends on whether one uses the restricted or unrestricted wreath product. However, in literature the notation used may be deficient and one needs to pay attention to the circumstances.

- In literature
*A*≀_{Ω}*H*may stand for the unrestricted wreath product*A*Wr_{Ω}*H*or the restricted wreath product*A*wr_{Ω}*H*. - Similarly,
*A*≀*H*may stand for the unrestricted regular wreath product*A*Wr*H*or the restricted regular wreath product*A*wr*H*. - In literature the
*H*-set Ω may be omitted from the notation even if Ω ≠*H*. - In the special case that
*H*=*S*_{n}is the symmetric group of degree*n*it is common in the literature to assume that Ω = {1,...,*n*} (with the natural action of*S*_{n}) and then omit Ω from the notation. That is,*A*≀*S*_{n}commonly denotes*A*≀_{{1,...,n}}*S*_{n}instead of the regular wreath product*A*≀_{Sn}*S*_{n}. In the first case the base group is the product of*n*copies of*A*, in the latter it is the product of*n*! copies of*A*.

Since the finite direct product is the same as the finite direct sum of groups, it follows that the unrestricted *A* Wr_{Ω} *H* and the restricted wreath product *A* wr_{Ω} *H* agree if Ω is finite. In particular this is true when Ω = *H* and *H* is finite.

*A* wr_{Ω} *H* is always a subgroup of *A* Wr_{Ω} *H*.

If *A*, *H* and Ω are finite, then

- |
*A*≀_{Ω}*H*| = |*A*|^{|Ω|}|*H*|.^{[2]}

- |

Main article: Universal embedding theorem |

*Universal embedding theorem*: If *G* is an extension of *A* by *H*, then there exists a subgroup of the unrestricted wreath product *A*≀*H* which is isomorphic to *G*.^{[3]} This is also known as the *Krasner–Kaloujnine embedding theorem*. The Krohn–Rhodes theorem involves what is basically the semigroup equivalent of this.^{[4]}

If the group *A* acts on a set Λ then there are two canonical ways to construct sets from Ω and Λ on which *A* Wr_{Ω} *H* (and therefore also *A* wr_{Ω} *H*) can act.

- The
**imprimitive**wreath product action on Λ × Ω.- If ((
*a*_{ω}),*h*) ∈*A*Wr_{Ω}*H*and (*λ*,*ω*′) ∈ Λ × Ω, then

- If ((
- The
**primitive**wreath product action on Λ^{Ω}.- An element in Λ
^{Ω}is a sequence (*λ*_{ω}) indexed by the*H*-set Ω. Given an element ((*a*_{ω}),*h*) ∈*A*Wr_{Ω}*H*its operation on (*λ*_{ω}) ∈ Λ^{Ω}is given by

- An element in Λ

- The lamplighter group is the restricted wreath product .

- (the generalized symmetric group). The base of this wreath product is the
*n*-fold direct product of copies of where the action of the symmetric group*S*_{n}of degree*n*is given by*φ*(*σ*)(α_{1},...,*α*_{n}) := (*α*_{σ(1)},...,*α*_{σ(n)}).^{[5]}

- (the hyperoctahedral group).
- The action of
*S*_{n}on {1,...,*n*} is as above. Since the symmetric group*S*_{2}of degree 2 is isomorphic to the hyperoctahedral group is a special case of a generalized symmetric group.^{[6]}

- The smallest non-trivial wreath product is ., which is the two-dimensional case of the above hyperoctahedral group. It is the symmetry group of the square, also called
*D*_{4}, the dihedral group of order 8. - Let
*p*be a prime and let . Let*P*be a Sylow*p*-subgroup of the symmetric group*S*_{pn}. Then*P*is isomorphic to the iterated regular wreath product of*n*copies of . Here and for all .^{[7]}^{[8]}For instance, the Sylow 2-subgroup of S_{4}is the above group.

- The Rubik's Cube group is a normal subgroup of index 12 in the product of wreath products, , the factors corresponding to the symmetries of the 8 corners and 12 edges.

- The Sudoku validity-preserving transformations (VPT) group contains the double wreath product (
*S*_{3}≀*S*_{3}) ≀*S*_{2}, where the factors are the permutation of rows/columns within a 3-row or 3-column*band*or*stack*(*S*_{3}), the permutation of the bands/stacks themselves (*S*_{3}) and the transposition, which interchanges the bands and stacks (*S*_{2}). Here, the index sets*Ω*are the set of bands (resp. stacks) (|*Ω*| = 3) and the set {bands, stacks} (|*Ω*| = 2). Accordingly, |*S*_{3}≀*S*_{3}| = |*S*_{3}|^{3}|*S*_{3}| = (3!)^{4}and |(*S*_{3}≀*S*_{3}) ≀*S*_{2}| = |*S*_{3}≀*S*_{3}|^{2}|*S*_{2}| = (3!)^{8}× 2.

- Wreath products arise naturally in the symmetries of complete rooted trees and their graphs. For example, the repeated (iterated) wreath product
*S*_{2}≀*S*_{2}≀*...*≀*S*_{2}is the automorphism group of a complete binary tree.