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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Circle illustration showing a radius, a diameter, the centre and the circumference

Tycho crater, one of many examples of circles that arise in nature. ©  

A   is a simple shape of Euclidean geometry consisting of those points in a plane which are
equidistant from a given point called the  (British English) or  (American English).
The common distance of the points of a circle from its centre is called its 

Circles are simple closed curves which divide the plane into two regions, an interior and an
exterior. In everyday use, the term "circle" may be used interchangeably to refer to either the
boundary of the figure (also known as the  ) or to the whole figure including its
interior. However, in strict technical usage, "circle" refers to the perimeter while the interior of
the circle is called a . The perimeter of a circle is also known as the  
especially when referring to its length.
A circle is a special ellipse in which the two foci are coincident. Circles are conic sections
attained when a right circular cone is intersected with a plane perpendicular to the axis of the


The   of a circle is
the length of a line segment
whose endpoints lie on the
circle and which passes
through the centre of the
circle. This is the largest
distance between any two
points on the circle. The
diameter of a circle is twice
its radius.
Chord, secant, tangent, and diameter.Arc, sector, and segment
As well as referring to
lengths, the terms "radius" and "diameter" can also refer to actual line segments (respectively, a
line segment from the centre of a circle to its perimeter, and a line segment between two points
on the perimeter passing through the centre). In this sense, the midpoint of a diameter is the
centre and so it is composed of two radii.

A  of a circle is a line segment whose two endpoints lie on the circle. The diameter,
passing through the circle's centre, is the longest chord in a circle. A  to a circle is a
straight line that touches the circle at a single point, thus guaranteeing that all tangents are
perpendicular to the radius and diameter that stem from the corresponding contact point on the
circumference. A  is an extended chord: a straight line cutting the circle at two points.

An  of a circle is any connected part of the circle's circumference. A  is a region
bounded by two radii and an arc lying between the radii, and a   is a region bounded by a
chord and an arc lying between the chord's endpoints.

The compass in this 13th century manuscript is a symbol of God's act of Creation. Notice also
the circular shape of the halo

The etymology of the word circle is from the Greek, kirkos "a circle," from the base ker- which
means to turn or bend. The origin of the word "circus" is closely related as well.

The circle has been known since before the beginning of recorded history. Natural circles would
have been observed, such as the Moon, Sun, and a short plant stalk blowing in the wind on sand,
which forms a circle shape in the sand. The circle is the basis for the wheel, which, with related
inventions such as gears, makes much of modern civilization possible. In mathematics, the study
of the circle has helped inspire the development of geometry, astronomy, and calculus.

Early science, particularly geometry and astrology and astronomy, was connected to the divine
for most medieval scholars, and many believed that there was something intrinsically "divine" or
"perfect" that could be found in circles.[Ê  


Some highlights in the history of the circle are:

2Y 1700 BC ± The Rhind papyrus gives a method to find the area of a circular field. The
result corresponds to 256/81 (3.16049...) as an approximate value of ʌ.[1]
2Y 300 BC ± Book 3 of Euclid's Elements deals with the properties of circles.
2Y In Plato's Seventh Letter there is a detailed definition and explanation of the circle. Plato
explains the perfect circle, and how it is different from any drawing, words, definition or
2Y 1880 ± Lindemann proves that ʌ is transcendental, effectively settling the millennia-old
problem of squaring the circle.[2]



The ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter is ʌ (pi), an irrational constant that takes the
same value (approximately 3.141592654) for all circles. Thus the length of the circumference (Ê)
is related to the radius () by

or equivalently to the diameter (

) by


Area of the circle = Ñ × area of the shaded square

§  Ê    

As proved by Archimedes, the area enclosed by a circle is ʌ multiplied by the radius squared:

Equivalently, denoting diameter by


that is, approximately 79% of the circumscribing square (whose side is of length

The circle is the plane curve enclosing the maximum area for a given arc length. This relates the
circle to a problem in the calculus of variations, namely the isoperimetric inequality.


] c   

Circle of radius  = 1, centre (, ) = (1.2, -0.5)

In an - Cartesian coordinate system, the circle with centre coordinates (, ) and radius  is the
set of all points (, ) such that

This equation of the circle follows from the Pythagorean theorem applied to any point on the
circle: as shown in the diagram to the right, the radius is the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle
whose other sides are of length  í  and  í . If the circle is centred at the origin (0, 0), then
the equation simplifies to

The equation can be written in parametric form using the trigonometric functions sine and cosine
in a polar coordinate system as

where  is a parametric variable, interpreted geometrically as the angle that the ray from the
origin to (, ) makes with the -axis. Alternatively, a rational parametrization of the circle is:

In this parametrization, the ratio of  to  can be interpreted geometrically as the stereographic

projection of the circle onto the line passing through the centre parallel to the -axis.

In homogeneous coordinates each conic section with equation of a circle is of the form
It can be proven that a conic section is a circle if and only if the point I(1: i: 0) and J(1: íi: 0) lie
on the conic section. These points are called the circular points at infinity.


In polar coordinates the equation of a circle is:

where  is the radius of the circle, 0 is the distance from the origin to the centre of the circle, and
ij is the anticlockwise angle from the positive -axis to the line connecting the origin to the
centre of the circle. For a circle centred at the origin, i.e. 0 = 0, this reduces to simply  = .
When 0 = , or when the origin lies on the circle, the equation becomes

 = 2cos(ș í ij).
In the general case, the equation can be solved for r, giving

the solution with a minus sign in front of the square root giving the same curve.

] c  

In the complex plane, a circle with a centre at Ê and radius () has the equation .

In parametric form this can be written  =  + Ê.

The slightly generalised equation for real ,  and complex  is

sometimes called a generalised circle. This becomes the above equation for a circle with
, since . Not all
generalised circles are actually circles: a generalised circle is either a (true) circle or a line.


§  Ê    Ê Ê 

The tangent line through a point on the circle is perpendicular to the diameter passing through
. If = (1, 1) and the circle has centre (, ) and radius , then the tangent line is
perpendicular to the line from (, ) to (1, 1), so it has the form (1í)x+(1í)y = Ê. Evaluating
at (1, 1) determines the value of Ê and the result is that the equation of the tangent is
(1 í ) + (1 í ) = (1 í )1 + (1 í )1

(1 í )( í ) + (1 í )( í ) = 2.

If 1b then slope of this line is

This can also be found using implicit differentiation.

When the centre of the circle is at the origin then the equation of the tangent line becomes

1 + 1 = 2,

and its slope is

2Y The circle is the shape with the largest area for a given length of perimeter. (See
Isoperimetric inequality.)
2Y The circle is a highly symmetric shape: every line through the centre forms a line of
reflection symmetry and it has rotational symmetry around the centre for every angle. Its
symmetry group is the orthogonal group O(2,). The group of rotations alone is the circle
group .
2Y All circles are similar.
VY A circle's circumference and radius are proportional.
VY The area enclosed and the square of its radius are proportional.
AY The constants of proportionality are 2ʌ and ʌ, respectively.
2Y The circle which is centred at the origin with radius 1 is called the unit circle.
VY Thought of as a great circle of the unit sphere, it becomes the Riemannian circle.
2Y Through any three points, not all on the same line, there lies a unique circle. In Cartesian
coordinates, it is possible to give explicit formulae for the coordinates of the centre of the
circle and the radius in terms of the coordinates of the three given points. See

] c 

2Y Chords are equidistant from the centre of a circle if and only if they are equal in length.
2Y The perpendicular bisector of a chord passes through the centre of a circle; equivalent
statements stemming from the uniqueness of the perpendicular bisector:
VY A perpendicular line from the centre of a circle bisects the chord.
VY The line segment (circular segment) through the centre bisecting a chord is
perpendicular to the chord.
2Y If a central angle and an inscribed angle of a circle are subtended by the same chord and
on the same side of the chord, then the central angle is twice the inscribed angle.
2Y If two angles are inscribed on the same chord and on the same side of the chord, then
they are equal.
2Y If two angles are inscribed on the same chord and on opposite sides of the chord, then
they are supplemental.
VY For a cyclic quadrilateral, the exterior angle is equal to the interior opposite angle.
2Y An inscribed angle subtended by a diameter is a right angle (see Thales' theorem).
2Y The diameter is the longest chord of the circle.
2Y If the intersection of any two chords divides one chord into lengths  and  and divides
the other chord into lengths Ê and
, then  = Ê
2Y If the intersection of any two perpendicular chords divides one chord into lengths  and 
2 2 2 2
and divides the other chord into lengths Ê and
, then  +  + Ê +
equals the
square of the diameter.


2Y The sagitta (also known as the versine) is a line segment drawn perpendicular to a chord,
between the midpoint of that chord and the arc of the circle.
2Y Given the length  of a chord, and the length  of the sagitta, the Pythagorean theorem
can be used to calculate the radius of the unique circle which will fit around the two lines:

Another proof of this result which relies only on two chord properties given above is as follows.
Given a chord of length  and with sagitta of length , since the sagitta intersects the midpoint of
the chord, we know it is part of a diameter of the circle. Since the diameter is twice the radius,
the ³missing´ part of the diameter is (2 í ) in length. Using the fact that one part of one chord
times the other part is equal to the same product taken along a chord intersecting the first chord,
we find that (2 í ) = (/2)². Solving for , we find the required result.


2Y The line perpendicular drawn to a radius through the end point of the radius is a tangent
to the circle.
2Y A line drawn perpendicular to a tangent through the point of contact with a circle passes
through the centre of the circle.
2Y Two tangents can always be drawn to a circle from any point outside the circle, and these
tangents are equal in length.
2Y If a tangent at and a tangent at  intersect at the exterior point , then denoting the
center as , the angles â and â are supplementary.
2Y If  is tangent to the circle at and if  is a chord of the circle, then â  =
arc( ).