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In geometry, collinearity of a set of points is the property of their lying on a single line.[1] A set of points with this property is said to be collinear (sometimes spelled as colinear[2]). In greater generality, the term has been used for aligned objects, that is, things being "in a line" or "in a row".

Points on a line

In any geometry, the set of points on a line are said to be collinear. In Euclidean geometry this relation is intuitively visualized by points lying in a row on a "straight line". However, in most geometries (including Euclidean) a line is typically a primitive (undefined) object type, so such visualizations will not necessarily be appropriate. A model for the geometry offers an interpretation of how the points, lines and other object types relate to one another and a notion such as collinearity must be interpreted within the context of that model. For instance, in spherical geometry, where lines are represented in the standard model by great circles of a sphere, sets of collinear points lie on the same great circle. Such points do not lie on a "straight line" in the Euclidean sense, and are not thought of as being in a row.

A mapping of a geometry to itself which sends lines to lines is called a collineation; it preserves the collinearity property. The linear maps (or linear functions) of vector spaces, viewed as geometric maps, map lines to lines; that is, they map collinear point sets to collinear point sets and so, are collineations. In projective geometry these linear mappings are called homographies and are just one type of collineation.

Examples in Euclidean geometry


In any triangle the following sets of points are collinear:



  • Pascal's theorem (also known as the Hexagrammum Mysticum Theorem) states that if an arbitrary six points are chosen on a conic section (i.e., ellipse, parabola or hyperbola) and joined by line segments in any order to form a hexagon, then the three pairs of opposite sides of the hexagon (extended if necessary) meet in three points which lie on a straight line, called the Pascal line of the hexagon. The converse is also true: the Braikenridge–Maclaurin theorem states that if the three intersection points of the three pairs of lines through opposite sides of a hexagon lie on a line, then the six vertices of the hexagon lie on a conic, which may be degenerate as in Pappus's hexagon theorem.

Conic sections

  • By Monge's theorem, for any three circles in a plane, none of which is completely inside one of the others, the three intersection points of the three pairs of lines, each externally tangent to two of the circles, are collinear.
  • In an ellipse, the center, the two foci, and the two vertices with the smallest radius of curvature are collinear, and the center and the two vertices with the greatest radius of curvature are collinear.
  • In a hyperbola, the center, the two foci, and the two vertices are collinear.


  • The center of mass of a conic solid of uniform density lies one-quarter of the way from the center of the base to the vertex, on the straight line joining the two.



Collinearity of points whose coordinates are given

In coordinate geometry, in n-dimensional space, a set of three or more distinct points are collinear if and only if, the matrix of the coordinates of these vectors is of rank 1 or less. For example, given three points

if the matrix

is of rank 1 or less, the points are collinear.

Equivalently, for every subset of X, Y, Z, if the matrix

is of rank 2 or less, the points are collinear. In particular, for three points in the plane (n = 2), the above matrix is square and the points are collinear if and only if its determinant is zero; since that 3 × 3 determinant is plus or minus twice the area of a triangle with those three points as vertices, this is equivalent to the statement that the three points are collinear if and only if the triangle with those points as vertices has zero area.

Collinearity of points whose pairwise distances are given

A set of at least three distinct points is called straight, meaning all the points are collinear, if and only if, for every three of those points A, B, C, the following determinant of a Cayley–Menger determinant is zero (with d(AB) meaning the distance between A and B, etc.):

This determinant is, by Heron's formula, equal to −16 times the square of the area of a triangle with side lengths d(AB), d(BC), d(AC); so checking if this determinant equals zero is equivalent to checking whether the triangle with vertices A, B, C has zero area (so the vertices are collinear).

Equivalently, a set of at least three distinct points are collinear if and only if, for every three of those points A, B, C with d(AC) greater than or equal to each of d(AB) and d(BC), the triangle inequality d(AC) ≤ d(AB) + d(BC) holds with equality.

Number theory

Two numbers m and n are not coprime—that is, they share a common factor other than 1—if and only if for a rectangle plotted on a square lattice with vertices at (0, 0), (m, 0), (m, n), (0, n), at least one interior point is collinear with (0, 0) and (m, n).

Concurrency (plane dual)

In various plane geometries the notion of interchanging the roles of "points" and "lines" while preserving the relationship between them is called plane duality. Given a set of collinear points, by plane duality we obtain a set of lines all of which meet at a common point. The property that this set of lines has (meeting at a common point) is called concurrency, and the lines are said to be concurrent lines. Thus, concurrency is the plane dual notion to collinearity.

Collinearity graph

Given a partial geometry P, where two points determine at most one line, a collinearity graph of P is a graph whose vertices are the points of P, where two vertices are adjacent if and only if they determine a line in P.

Usage in statistics and econometrics

In statistics, collinearity refers to a linear relationship between two explanatory variables. Two variables are perfectly collinear if there is an exact linear relationship between the two, so the correlation between them is equal to 1 or −1. That is, X1 and X2 are perfectly collinear if there exist parameters and such that, for all observations i, we have

This means that if the various observations (X1i, X2i) are plotted in the (X1, X2) plane, these points are collinear in the sense defined earlier in this article.

Perfect multicollinearity refers to a situation in which k (k ≥ 2) explanatory variables in a multiple regression model are perfectly linearly related, according to

for all observations i. In practice, we rarely face perfect multicollinearity in a data set. More commonly, the issue of multicollinearity arises when there is a "strong linear relationship" among two or more independent variables, meaning that

where the variance of is relatively small.

The concept of lateral collinearity expands on this traditional view, and refers to collinearity between explanatory and criteria (i.e., explained) variables.[10]

Usage in other areas

Antenna arrays

An antenna mast with four collinear directional arrays.

In telecommunications, a collinear (or co-linear) antenna array is an array of dipole antennas mounted in such a manner that the corresponding elements of each antenna are parallel and aligned, that is they are located along a common line or axis.


The collinearity equations are a set of two equations, used in photogrammetry and computer stereo vision, to relate coordinates in an image (sensor) plane (in two dimensions) to object coordinates (in three dimensions). In the photography setting, the equations are derived by considering the central projection of a point of the object through the optical centre of the camera to the image in the image (sensor) plane. The three points, object point, image point and optical centre, are always collinear. Another way to say this is that the line segments joining the object points with their image points are all concurrent at the optical centre.[11]

See also


  1. ^ The concept applies in any geometry Dembowski (1968, pg. 26), but is often only defined within the discussion of a specific geometry Coxeter (1969, pg. 178), Brannan, Esplen & Gray (1998, pg.106)
  2. ^ Colinear (Merriam-Webster dictionary)
  3. ^ a b Johnson, Roger A., Advanced Euclidean Geometry, Dover Publ., 2007 (orig. 1929).
  4. ^ Altshiller Court, Nathan. College Geometry, 2nd ed. Barnes & Noble, 1952 [1st ed. 1925].
  5. ^ Scott, J. A. "Some examples of the use of areal coordinates in triangle geometry", Mathematical Gazette 83, November 1999, 472–477.
  6. ^ Dušan Djukić, Vladimir Janković, Ivan Matić, Nikola Petrović, The IMO Compendium, Springer, 2006, p. 15.
  7. ^ Myakishev, Alexei (2006), "On Two Remarkable Lines Related to a Quadrilateral" (PDF), Forum Geometricorum, 6: 289–295.
  8. ^ Honsberger, Ross (1995), "4.2 Cyclic quadrilaterals", Episodes in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Euclidean Geometry, New Mathematical Library, vol. 37, Cambridge University Press, pp. 35–39, ISBN 978-0-88385-639-0
  9. ^ Bradley, Christopher (2011), Three Centroids created by a Cyclic Quadrilateral (PDF)
  10. ^ Kock, N.; Lynn, G. S. (2012). "Lateral collinearity and misleading results in variance-based SEM: An illustration and recommendations" (PDF). Journal of the Association for Information Systems. 13 (7): 546–580. doi:10.17705/1jais.00302. S2CID 3677154.
  11. ^ It's more mathematically natural to refer to these equations as concurrency equations, but photogrammetry literature does not use that terminology.


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