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# well-defined

A mathematical concept is *well-defined* (German wohldefiniert, French bien défini), if its contents is
independent on the form or the alternative representative which is used for defining it.

For example, in defining the power $x^{r}$ with $x$ a positive real and $r$ a rational number, we can freely choose the fraction form $\frac{m}{n}$ ($m\in\mathbb{Z}$, $n\in\mathbb{Z}_{+}$) of $r$ and take

$x^{r}\;:=\;\sqrt[n]{x^{m}}$ |

and be sure that the value of $x^{r}$ does not depend on that choice (this is justified in the entry fraction power). So, the $x^{r}$ is well-defined.

In many instances well-defined is a synonym for the formal definition of a function between sets. For example, the function $f(x):=x^{2}$ is a well-defined function from the real numbers to the real numbers because every input, $x$, is assigned to precisely one output, $x^{2}$. However, $f(x):=\pm\sqrt{x}$ is not well-defined in that one input $x$ can be assigned any one of two possible outputs, $\sqrt{x}$ or $-\sqrt{x}$.

More subtle examples include expressions such as

$f\!\left(\frac{a}{b}\right)\;:=\;a\!+\!b,\quad\frac{a}{b}\in\mathbb{Q}.$ |

Certainly every input has an output, for instance, $f(1/2)=3$. However, the expression is *not*
well-defined since $1/2=2/4$ yet $f(1/2)=3$ while $f(2/4)=6$ and $3\neq 6$.

One must question whether a function is well-defined whenever it is defined on a domain of equivalence classes in such a manner that each output is determined for a representative of each equivalence class. For example, the function $f(a/b):=a\!+\!b$ was defined using the representative $a/b$ of the equivalence class of fractions equivalent to $a/b$.

## Mathematics Subject Classification

00A05*no label found*

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