Glossary of Riemannian and metric geometry

Glossary of Riemannian and metric geometry

This is a glossary of some terms used in Riemannian geometry and metric geometry — it doesn't cover the terminology of differential topology. The following articles may also be useful. These either contain specialised vocabulary or provide more detailed expositions of the definitions given below.

* Connection
* Curvature
* Metric space
* Riemannian manifoldSee also:
* Glossary of general topology
* Glossary of differential geometry and topology
* List of differential geometry topics

Unless stated otherwise, letters "X", "Y", "Z" below denote metric spaces, "M", "N" denote Riemannian manifolds, |"xy"| or |xy|_X denotes the distance between points "x" and "y" in "X". Italic "word" denotes a self-reference to this glossary.

"A caveat": many terms in Riemannian and metric geometry, such as "convex function", "convex set" and others, do not have exactly the same meaning as in general mathematical usage.



Alexandrov space a generalization of Riemannian manifolds with upper, lower or integral curvature bounds (the last one works only in dimension 2)

Almost flat manifold

Arc-wise isometry the same as "path isometry".


Baricenter, see "center of mass".

bi-Lipschitz map. A map f:X o Y is called bi-Lipschitz if there are positive constants "c" and "C" such that for any "x" and "y" in "X":c|xy|_Xle|f(x)f(y)|_Yle C|xy|_X

Busemann function given a "ray", γ : [0, ∞)→"X", the Busemann function is defined by:B_gamma(p)=lim_{t oinfty}(|gamma(t)p|-t)


Cartan–Hadamard theorem is the statement that a connected, simply connected complete Riemannian manifold with non-positive sectional curvature is diffeomorphic to Rn via the exponential map; for metric spaces, the statement that a connected, simply connected complete geodesic metric space with non-positive curvature in the sense of Alexandrov is a (globally) CAT(0) space.

Center of mass. A point "q" ∈ "M" is called the center of mass of the points p_1,p_2,dots,p_k if it is a point of global minimum of the function

:f(x)=sum_i |p_ix|^2

Such a point is unique if all distances |p_ip_j| are less than "radius of convexity".

Christoffel symbol

Collapsing manifold

Complete space


Conformal map is a map which preserves angles.

Conformally flat a "M" is conformally flat if it is locally conformally equivalent to a Euclidean space, for example standard sphere is conformally flat.

Conjugate points two points "p" and "q" on a geodesic gamma are called conjugate if there is a Jacobi field on gamma which has a zero at "p" and "q".

Convex function. A function "f" on a Riemannian manifold is a convex if for any geodesic gamma the function fcircgamma is convex. A function "f" is called lambda-convex if for any geodesic gamma with natural parameter t, the function fcircgamma(t)-lambda t^2 is convex.

Convex A subset "K" of a Riemannian manifold "M" is called convex if for any two points in "K" there is a "shortest path" connecting them which lies entirely in "K", see also "totally convex".

Cotangent bundle

Covariant derivative


Diameter of a metric space is the supremum of distances between pairs of points.

Developable surface is a surface isometric to the plane.

Dilation of a map between metric spaces is the infimum of numbers "L" such that the given map is "L"-Lipschitz.


Exponential map


Finsler metric

First fundamental form for an embedding or immersion is the pullback of the metric tensor.


Geodesic is a curve which locally minimizes distance.

Geodesic flow is a flow on a tangent bundle "TM" of a manifold "M", generated by a vector field whose trajectories are of the form (gamma(t),gamma'(t)) where gamma is a geodesic.

Gromov-Hausdorff convergence

Geodesic metric space is a metric space where any two points are the endpoints of a minimizing geodesic.


Hadamard space is a complete simply connected space with nonpositive curvature.

Horosphere a level set of "Busemann function".


Injectivity radius The injectivity radius at a point "p" of a Riemannian manifold is the largest radius for which the exponential map at "p" is a diffeomorphism. The injectivity radius of a Riemannian manifold is the infimum of the injectivity radii at all points.

For complete manifolds, if the injectivity radius at "p" is a finite number "r", then either there is a geodesic of length 2"r" which starts and ends at "p" or there is a point "q" conjugate to "p" (see conjugate point above) and on the distance "r" from "p". For a closed Riemannian manifold the injectivity radius is either half the minimal length of a closed geodesic or the minimal distance between conjugate points on a geodesic.

Infranil manifold Given a simply connected nilpotent Lie group "N" acting on itself by left multiplication and a finite group of automorphisms "F" of "N" one can define an action of semidirect product N times F on "N". A compact factor of "N" by subgroup of N times F acting freely on "N" is called "infranil manifold".Infranil manifolds are factors of nil manifolds by finite group (but the converse fails).

Isometry is a map which preserves distances.

Intrinsic metric


Jacobi field A Jacobi field is a vector field on a geodesic γ which can be obtained on the following way: Take a smooth one parameter family of geodesics gamma_ au with gamma_0=gamma, then the Jacobi field is described by:J(t)=partialgamma_ au(t)/partial au|_{ au=0}.

Jordan curve


Killing vector field


Length metric the same as "intrinsic metric".

Levi-Civita connection is a natural way to differentiate vector field on Riemannian manifolds.

Lipschitz convergence the convergence defined by Lipschitz metric.

Lipschitz distance between metric spaces is the infimum of numbers "r" such that there is a bijective "bi-Lipschitz" map between these spaces with constants exp(-"r"), exp("r").

Lipschitz map

Logarithmic map is a right inverse of Exponential map.


Mean curvature

Metric ball

Metric tensor

Minimal surface is a submanifold with (vector of) mean curvature zero.


Natural parametrization is the parametrization by length.

Net. A sub set "S" of a metric space "X" is called epsilon-net if for any point in "X" there is a point in "S" on the distance leepsilon. This is distinct from topological nets which generalise limits.

Nil manifolds: the minimal set of manifolds which includes a point, and has the following property: any oriented S^1-bundle over a nil manifold is a nil manifold. It also can be defined as a factor of a connected nilpotent Lie group by a lattice.

Normal bundle: associated to an imbedding of a manifold "M" into an ambient Euclidean space {mathbb R}^N, the normal bundle is a vector bundle whose fiber at each point "p" is the orthogonal complement (in {mathbb R}^N) of the tangent space T_pM.

Nonexpanding map same as "short map"


Parallel transport

Polyhedral space a simplicial complex with a metric such that each simplex with induced metric is isometric to a simplex in Euclidean space.

Principal curvature is the maximum and minimum normal curvatures at a point on a surface.

Principal direction is the direction of the principal curvatures.

Path isometry

Proper metric space is a metric space in which every closed ball is compact. Every proper metric space is complete.


Quasigeodesic has two meanings; here we give the most common. A map f: extbf{R} o Y is called quasigeodesic if there are constants K > 0 and C ge 0 such that :{1over K}d(x,y)-Cle d(f(x),f(y))le Kd(x,y)+C. Note that a quasigeodesic is not necessarily a continuous curve.

Quasi-isometry. A map f:X o Y is called a quasi-isometry if there are constants K ge 1 and C ge 0 such that :{1over K}d(x,y)-Cle d(f(x),f(y))le Kd(x,y)+C. and every point in "Y" has distance at most "C" from some point of "f"("X").Note that a quasi-isometry is not assumed to be continuous, for example any map between compact metric spaces is a quasi isometry. If there exists a quasi-isometry from X to Y, then X and Y are said to be quasi-isometric.


Radius of metric space is the infimum of radii of metric balls which contain the space completely.

Radius of convexity at a point "p" of a Riemannian manifold is the largest radius of a ball which is a "convex" subset.

Ray is a one side infinite geodesic which is minimizing on each interval

Riemann curvature tensor

Riemannian manifold

Riemannian submersion is a map between Riemannian manifolds which is submersion and "submetry" at the same time.


Second fundamental form is a quadratic form on the tangent space of hypersurface, usually denoted by II, an equivalent way to describe the "shape operator" of a hypersurface, :II(v,w)=langle S(v),w angleIt can be also generalized to arbitrary codimension, in which case it is a quadratic form with values in the normal space.

Shape operator for a hypersurface "M" is a linear operator on tangent spaces, "S""p": "T""p""M"→"T""p""M". If "n" is a unit normal field to "M" and "v" is a tangent vector then :S(v)=pm abla_{v}n (there is no standard agreement whether to use + or − in the definition).

Short map is a distance non increasing map.

Smooth manifold

Sol manifold is a factor of a connected solvable Lie group by a lattice.

Submetry a short map "f" between metric spaces called submetry if for any point "x" and radius "r" we have that image of metric "r"-ball is an "r"-ball, i.e.:f(B_r(x))=B_r(f(x)) ,!

Sub-Riemannian manifold

Systole. The "k"-systole of "M", syst_k(M), is the minimal volume of "k"-cycle nonhomologous to zero.


Tangent bundle

Totally convex. A subset "K" of a Riemannian manifold "M" is called totally convex if for any two points in "K" any geodesic connecting them lies entirely in "K", see also "convex".

Totally geodesic submanifold is a "submanifold" such that all "geodesics" in the submanifold are also geodesics of the surrounding manifold.


Word metric on a group is a metric of the Cayley graph constructed using a set of generators.

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