Definition: (1) Any function which is the sum of constants times powers of the argument: f(x)=Σi=0k cixpi. (2) In complexity theory, the measure of computation, m(n) (usually execution time or memory space), is bounded by a polynomial function of the problem size, n. More formally m(n) = O(nk).

See also logarithmic, linear, exponential.

Note: Strictly speaking, a linear function is a polynomial with the highest exponent being 1, and a logarithmic function is a polynomial with fractional exponents. However polynomial usually means exponents greater than 1.

Author: PEB

More information

An explanation of how quadratic and other polynomials got their names.

Go to the Dictionary of Algorithms and Data Structures home page.

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Entry modified 17 December 2004.
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Cite this as:
Paul E. Black, "polynomial", in Dictionary of Algorithms and Data Structures [online], Paul E. Black, ed. 17 December 2004. (accessed TODAY) Available from: