Inscribed figure

An inscribed triangle of a circle
A tetrahedron (red) inscribed in a cube (yellow) which is, in turn, inscribed in a rhombic triacontahedron (grey).
(Click here for rotating model)

In geometry, an inscribed planar shape or solid is one that is enclosed by and "fits snugly" inside another geometric shape or solid. To say that "figure F is inscribed in figure G" means precisely the same thing as "figure G is circumscribed about figure F". A circle or ellipse inscribed in a convex polygon (or a sphere or ellipsoid inscribed in a convex polyhedron) is tangent to every side or face of the outer figure (but see Inscribed sphere for semantic variants). A polygon inscribed in a circle, ellipse, or polygon (or a polyhedron inscribed in a sphere, ellipsoid, or polyhedron) has each vertex on the outer figure; if the outer figure is a polygon or polyhedron, there must be a vertex of the inscribed polygon or polyhedron on each side of the outer figure. An inscribed figure is not necessarily unique in orientation; this can easily be seen, for example, when the given outer figure is a circle, in which case a rotation of an inscribed figure gives another inscribed figure that is congruent to the original one.

Familiar examples of inscribed figures include circles inscribed in triangles or regular polygons, and triangles or regular polygons inscribed in circles. A circle inscribed in any polygon is called its incircle, in which case the polygon is said to be a tangential polygon. A polygon inscribed in a circle is said to be a cyclic polygon, and the circle is said to be its circumscribed circle or circumcircle.

The inradius or filling radius of a given outer figure is the radius of the inscribed circle or sphere, if it exists.

The definition given above assumes that the objects concerned are embedded in two- or three-dimensional Euclidean space, but can easily be generalized to higher dimensions and other metric spaces.

For an alternative usage of the term "inscribed", see the inscribed square problem, in which a square is considered to be inscribed in another figure (even a non-convex one) if all four of its vertices are on that figure.


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