In geometry a quadrilateral is a four-sided polygon, having four edges (sides) and four corners (vertices). The word is derived from the Latin words quadri, a variant of four, and latus, meaning "side". It is also called a tetragon, derived from greek "tetra" meaning "four" and "gon" meaning "corner" or "angle", in analogy to other polygons (e.g. pentagon). Since "gon" means "angle", it is analogously called a quadrangle, or 4-angle. A quadrilateral with vertices , , and is sometimes denoted as .
Quadrilaterals are either simple (not self-intersecting), or complex (self-intersecting, or crossed). Simple quadrilaterals are either convex or concave.
Trapezium (UK) or trapezoid (US): at least one pair of opposite sides are parallel. Trapezia (UK) and trapezoids (US) include parallelograms.
Isosceles trapezium (UK) or isosceles trapezoid (US): one pair of opposite sides are parallel and the base angles are equal in measure. Alternative definitions are a quadrilateral with an axis of symmetry bisecting one pair of opposite sides, or a trapezoid with diagonals of equal length.
Parallelogram: a quadrilateral with two pairs of parallel sides. Equivalent conditions are that opposite sides are of equal length; that opposite angles are equal; or that the diagonals bisect each other. Parallelograms include rhombi (including those rectangles called squares) and rhomboids (including those rectangles called oblongs). In other words, parallelograms include all rhombi and all rhomboids, and thus also include all rectangles.
Rhombus, rhomb: all four sides are of equal length (equilateral). An equivalent condition is that the diagonals perpendicularly bisect each other. Informally: "a pushed-over square" (but strictly including a square, too).
Rhomboid: a parallelogram in which adjacent sides are of unequal lengths, and some angles are oblique (equiv., having no right angles). Informally: "a pushed-over oblong". Not all references agree, some define a rhomboid as a parallelogram that is not a rhombus.
Rectangle: all four angles are right angles (equiangular). An equivalent condition is that the diagonals bisect each other, and are equal in length. Rectangles include squares and oblongs. Informally: "a box or oblong" (including a square).
Square (regular quadrilateral): all four sides are of equal length (equilateral), and all four angles are right angles. An equivalent condition is that opposite sides are parallel (a square is a parallelogram), and that the diagonals perpendicularly bisect each other and are of equal length. A quadrilateral is a square if and only if it is both a rhombus and a rectangle (i.e., four equal sides and four equal angles).
Oblong: longer than wide, or wider than long (i.e., a rectangle that is not a square).
Kite: two pairs of adjacent sides are of equal length. This implies that one diagonal divides the kite into congruent triangles, and so the angles between the two pairs of equal sides are equal in measure. It also implies that the diagonals are perpendicular. Kites include rhombi.
Tangential quadrilateral: the four sides are tangents to an inscribed circle. A convex quadrilateral is tangential if and only if opposite sides have equal sums.
A self-intersecting quadrilateral is called variously a cross-quadrilateral, crossed quadrilateral, butterfly quadrilateral or bow-tie quadrilateral. In a crossed quadrilateral, the four "interior" angles on either side of the crossing (two acute and two reflex, all on the left or all on the right as the figure is traced out) add up to 720°.
The area can be expressed in trigonometric terms as
where the lengths of the diagonals are p and q and the angle between them is θ. In the case of an orthodiagonal quadrilateral (e.g. rhombus, square, and kite), this formula reduces to since θ is 90°.
The area can be also expressed in terms of bimedians as
where the lengths of the bimedians are m and n and the angle between them is φ.
where the sides in sequence are a, b, c, d, where s is the semiperimeter, and A and C are two (in fact, any two) opposite angles. This reduces to Brahmagupta's formula for the area of a cyclic quadrilateral—when A + C = 180°.
Another area formula in terms of the sides and angles, with angle C being between sides b and c, and A being between sides a and d, is
In the case of a cyclic quadrilateral, the latter formula becomes
In a parallelogram, where both pairs of opposite sides and angles are equal, this formula reduces to
Alternatively, we can write the area in terms of the sides and the intersection angle θ of the diagonals, as long θ is not 90°:
In the case of a parallelogram, the latter formula becomes
Another area formula including the sides a, b, c, d is
where x is the distance between the midpoints of the diagonals, and φ is the angle between the bimedians.
The last trigonometric area formula including the sides a, b, c, d and the angle α (between a and b) is:
which can also be used for the area of a concave quadrilateral (having the concave part opposite to angle α), by just changing the first sign + to -.
In fact, any three of the four values m, n, p, and q suffice for determination of the area, since in any quadrilateral the four values are related by : p. 126 The corresponding expressions are:
if the lengths of two bimedians and one diagonal are given, and
if the lengths of two diagonals and one bimedian are given.
The area of a quadrilateral ABCD can be calculated using vectors. Let vectors AC and BD form the diagonals from A to C and from B to D. The area of the quadrilateral is then
which is half the magnitude of the cross product of vectors AC and BD. In two-dimensional Euclidean space, expressing vector AC as a free vector in Cartesian space equal to (x1,y1) and BD as (x2,y2), this can be rewritten as:
Properties of the diagonals in quadrilaterals
In the following table it is listed if the diagonals in some of the most basic quadrilaterals bisect each other, if their diagonals are perpendicular, and if their diagonals have equal length. The list applies to the most general cases, and excludes named subsets.
Note 1: The most general trapezoids and isosceles trapezoids do not have perpendicular diagonals, but there are infinite numbers of (non-similar) trapezoids and isosceles trapezoids that do have perpendicular diagonals and are not any other named quadrilateral.
Note 2: In a kite, one diagonal bisects the other. The most general kite has unequal diagonals, but there is an infinite number of (non-similar) kites in which the diagonals are equal in length (and the kites are not any other named quadrilateral).
The lengths of the diagonals in a convex quadrilateral ABCD can be calculated using the law of cosines on each triangle formed by one diagonal and two sides of the quadrilateral. Thus
Other, more symmetric formulas for the lengths of the diagonals, are
Generalizations of the parallelogram law and Ptolemy's theorem
In any convex quadrilateral ABCD, the sum of the squares of the four sides is equal to the sum of the squares of the two diagonals plus four times the square of the line segment connecting the midpoints of the diagonals. Thus
This relation can be considered to be a law of cosines for a quadrilateral. In a cyclic quadrilateral, where A + C = 180°, it reduces to pq = ac + bd. Since cos (A + C) ≥ −1, it also gives a proof of Ptolemy's inequality.
The shape and size of a convex quadrilateral are fully determined by the lengths of its sides in sequence and of one diagonal between two specified vertices. The two diagonals p, q and the four side lengths a, b, c, d of a quadrilateral are related by the Cayley-Mengerdeterminant, as follows:
The bimedians of a quadrilateral are the line segments connecting the midpoints of the opposite sides. The intersection of the bimedians is the centroid of the vertices of the quadrilateral.
The midpoints of the sides of any quadrilateral (convex, concave or crossed) are the vertices of a parallelogram called the Varignon parallelogram. It has the following properties:
Each pair of opposite sides of the Varignon parallelogram are parallel to a diagonal in the original quadrilateral.
A side of the Varignon parallelogram is half as long as the diagonal in the original quadrilateral it is parallel to.
The area of the Varignon parallelogram equals half the area of the original quadrilateral. This is true in convex, concave and crossed quadrilaterals provided the area of the latter is defined to be the difference of the areas of the two triangles it is composed of.
The perimeter of the Varignon parallelogram equals the sum of the diagonals of the original quadrilateral.
The diagonals of the Varignon parallelogram are the bimedians of the original quadrilateral.
The two bimedians in a quadrilateral and the line segment joining the midpoints of the diagonals in that quadrilateral are concurrent and are all bisected by their point of intersection.: p.125
In a convex quadrilateral with sides a, b, c and d, the length of the bimedian that connects the midpoints of the sides a and c is
where p and q are the length of the diagonals. The length of the bimedian that connects the midpoints of the sides b and d is
The lengths of the bimedians can also be expressed in terms of two opposite sides and the distance x between the midpoints of the diagonals. This is possible when using Euler's quadrilateral theorem in the above formulas. Whence
Note that the two opposite sides in these formulas are not the two that the bimedian connects.
In a convex quadrilateral, there is the following dual connection between the bimedians and the diagonals:
Among all quadrilaterals with a given perimeter, the one with the largest area is the square. This is called the isoperimetric theorem for quadrilaterals. It is a direct consequence of the area inequality: p.114
where K is the area of a convex quadrilateral with perimeter L. Equality holds if and only if the quadrilateral is a square. The dual theorem states that of all quadrilaterals with a given area, the square has the shortest perimeter.
Of all convex quadrilaterals with given diagonals, the orthodiagonal quadrilateral has the largest area.: p.119 This is a direct consequence of the fact that the area of a convex quadrilateral satisfies
where θ is the angle between the diagonals p and q. Equality holds if and only if θ = 90°.
If P is an interior point in a convex quadrilateral ABCD, then
From this inequality it follows that the point inside a quadrilateral that minimizes the sum of distances to the vertices is the intersection of the diagonals. Hence that point is the Fermat point of a convex quadrilateral.: p.120
Remarkable points and lines in a convex quadrilateral
The centre of a quadrilateral can be defined in several different ways. The "vertex centroid" comes from considering the quadrilateral as being empty but having equal masses at its vertices. The "side centroid" comes from considering the sides to have constant mass per unit length. The usual centre, called just centroid (centre of area) comes from considering the surface of the quadrilateral as having constant density. These three points are in general not all the same point.
The "vertex centroid" is the intersection of the two bimedians. As with any polygon, the x and y coordinates of the vertex centroid are the arithmetic means of the x and y coordinates of the vertices.
The "area centroid" of quadrilateral ABCD can be constructed in the following way. Let Ga, Gb, Gc, Gd be the centroids of triangles BCD, ACD, ABD, ABC respectively. Then the "area centroid" is the intersection of the lines GaGc and GbGd.
In a general convex quadrilateral ABCD, there are no natural analogies to the circumcenter and orthocenter of a triangle. But two such points can be constructed in the following way. Let Oa, Ob, Oc, Od be the circumcenters of triangles BCD, ACD, ABD, ABC respectively; and denote by Ha, Hb, Hc, Hd the orthocenters in the same triangles. Then the intersection of the lines OaOc and ObOd is called the quasicircumcenter, and the intersection of the lines HaHc and HbHd is called the quasiorthocenter of the convex quadrilateral. These points can be used to define an Euler line of a quadrilateral. In a convex quadrilateral, the quasiorthocenter H, the "area centroid" G, and the quasicircumcenter O are collinear in this order, and HG = 2GO.
There can also be defined a quasinine-point centerE as the intersection of the lines EaEc and EbEd, where Ea, Eb, Ec, Ed are the nine-point centers of triangles BCD, ACD, ABD, ABC respectively. Then E is the midpoint of OH.
Another remarkable line in a convex non-parallelogram quadrilateral is the Newton line, which connects the midpoints of the diagonals, the segment connecting these points being bisected by the vertex centroid. One more interesting line (in some sense dual to the Newton's one) is the line connecting the point of intersection of diagonals with the vertex centroid. The line is remarkable by the fact that it contains the (area) centroid. The vertex centroid divides the segment connecting the intersection of diagonals and the (area) centroid in the ratio 3:1.
For any quadrilateral ABCD with points P and Q the intersections of AD and BC and AB and CD, respectively, the circles (PAB), (PCD), (QAD), and (QBC) pass through a common point M, called a Miquel point.
For a convex quadrilateral ABCD in which E is the point of intersection of the diagonals and F is the point of intersection of the extensions of sides BC and AD, let ω be a circle through E and F which meets CB internally at M and DA internally at N. Let CA meet ω again at L and let DB meet ω again at K. Then there holds: the straight lines NK and ML intersect at point P that is located on the side AB; the straight lines NL and KM intersect at point Q that is located on the side CD.
Points P and Q are called ”Pascal points” formed by circle ω on sides AB and CD.
The four smaller triangles formed by the diagonals and sides of a convex quadrilateral have the property that the product of the areas of two opposite triangles equals the product of the areas of the other two triangles.
A hierarchical taxonomy of quadrilaterals is illustrated by the figure to the right. Lower classes are special cases of higher classes they are connected to. Note that "trapezoid" here is referring to the North American definition (the British equivalent is a trapezium). Inclusive definitions are used throughout.
A non-planar quadrilateral is called a skew quadrilateral. Formulas to compute its dihedral angles from the edge lengths and the angle between two adjacent edges were derived for work on the properties of molecules such as cyclobutane that contain a "puckered" ring of four atoms. Historically the term gauche quadrilateral was also used to mean a skew quadrilateral. A skew quadrilateral together with its diagonals form a (possibly non-regular) tetrahedron, and conversely every skew quadrilateral comes from a tetrahedron where a pair of opposite edges is removed.