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In mathematics, a quantity characterized by magnitude and direction. Some physical and geometric quantities, called scalars, can be fully defined by a single number specifying their magnitude in suitable units of measure (e.g., mass in grams, temperature in degrees, time in seconds). Quantities like velocity, force, and displacement must be specified by a magnitude and a direction. These are vectors. A vector quantity can be visualized as an arrow drawn in a specific direction, whose length is equal to the magnitude of the quantity represented. A two-dimensional vector is specified by two coordinates, a three-dimensional vector by three coordinates, and so on. Vector analysis is a branch of mathematics that explores the utility of this type of representation and defines the ways such quantities may be combined. See alsovector operations.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on vector, visit Britannica.com.