Definition of quaternion in English:

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Pronunciation: /kwəˈtərnēən/
Pronunciation: /kwäˈternēən/


1 Mathematics A complex number of the form w + xi + yj + zk, where w, x, y, z are real numbers and i, j, k are imaginary units that satisfy certain conditions.
Example sentences
  • Recall that when Hamilton passed from complex numbers to quaternions, multiplication lost one of its normal properties: commutativity.
  • Two other papers which he published in the same year in publications of the Royal Society of Edinburgh were on the scalar functions of a vector and on an application of quaternions to differential equations.
  • Hurwitz published a paper on a factorisation theory for integer quaternions in 1896 and applied it to the problem of representing an integer as the sum of four squares.
2 rare A set of four people or things.
Example sentences
  • And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
  • I am not likely to attempt your quaternion of colour very soon.
  • The two figural miniatures and all the canon tables are contained on a separate gathering, a quaternion, physically joined together.


Mid 19th century: from late Latin quaternio(n-), from Latin quarterni (see quaternary).

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: qua·ter·ni·on

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