qua·​ter·​ni·​on kwə-ˈtər-nē-ən How to pronounce quaternion (audio)
: a set of four parts, things, or persons
: any of a set of numbers that comprise a four-dimensional vector space with a basis consisting of the real number 1 and three imaginary units i, j, k, that follow special rules of multiplication, and that are used especially in computer graphics, robotics, and animation to rotate objects in three dimensions

Examples of quaternion in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web John Graves, a lawyer friend of Hamilton’s, subsequently showed that pairs of quaternions make octonions: numbers that define coordinates in an abstract 8-D space. Quanta Magazine, 20 July 2018 Like the quaternions, octonion multiplication is not commutative. Quanta Magazine, 25 Oct. 2018 Proof surfaced in 1898 that the reals, complex numbers, quaternions and octonions are the only kinds of numbers that can be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided. Quanta Magazine, 20 July 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'quaternion.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English quaternyoun, from Late Latin quaternion-, quaternio, from Latin quaterni four each, from quater four times; akin to Latin quattuor four — more at four

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of quaternion was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near quaternion

Cite this Entry

“Quaternion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quaternion. Accessed 29 May. 2024.

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