All rational numbers are algebraic. Any rational number, expressed as the quotient of two integersa and b, b not equal to zero, satisfies the above definition because x = a/b is the root of a non-zero polynomial, namely bx − a.
The quadratic surds (irrational roots of a quadratic polynomial ax2 + bx + c with integer coefficients a, b, and c) are algebraic numbers. If the quadratic polynomial is monic (a = 1) then the roots are further qualified as quadratic integers.
The constructible numbers are those numbers that can be constructed from a given unit length using straightedge and compass. These include all quadratic surds, all rational numbers, and all numbers that can be formed from these using the basic arithmetic operations and the extraction of square roots. (By designating cardinal directions for 1, −1, i, and −i, complex numbers such as 3 + √2i are considered constructible.)
Any expression formed from algebraic numbers using any combination of the basic arithmetic operations and extraction of nth roots gives another algebraic number.
Polynomial roots that cannot be expressed in terms of the basic arithmetic operations and extraction of nth roots (such as the roots of x5 − x + 1). This happens with many, but not all, polynomials of degree 5 or higher.
Gaussian integers: those complex numbers a + bi where both a and b are integers and are also quadratic integers.
Values of trigonometric functions of rational multiples of π (except when undefined): that is, the trigonometric numbers. For example, each of cos π/7, cos 3π/7, cos 5π/7 satisfies 8x3 − 4x2 − 4x + 1 = 0. This polynomial is irreducible over the rationals, and so these three cosines are conjugate algebraic numbers. Likewise, tan 3π/16, tan 7π/16, tan 11π/16, tan 15π/16 all satisfy the irreducible polynomial x4 − 4x3 − 6x2 + 4x + 1 = 0, and so are conjugate algebraic integers.
The set of algebraic numbers is countable (enumerable), and therefore its Lebesgue measure as a subset of the complex numbers is 0 (essentially, the algebraic numbers take up no space in the complex numbers). That is to say, "almost all" real and complex numbers are transcendental.
Given an algebraic number, there is a unique monic polynomial (with rational coefficients) of least degree that has the number as a root. This polynomial is called its minimal polynomial. If its minimal polynomial has degree n, then the algebraic number is said to be of degree n. For example, all rational numbers have degree 1, and an algebraic number of degree 2 is a quadratic irrational.
For real numbers a and b, the complex number a + bi is algebraic if and only if both a and b are algebraic.
The field of algebraic numbers
Algebraic numbers colored by degree (blue = 4, cyan = 3, red = 2, green = 1). The unit circle is black.
The sum, difference, product and quotient (if the denominator is nonzero) of two algebraic numbers is again algebraic (this fact can be demonstrated using the resultant), and the algebraic numbers therefore form a fieldQ (sometimes denoted by A, though this usually denotes the adele ring). Every root of a polynomial equation whose coefficients are algebraic numbers is again algebraic. This can be rephrased by saying that the field of algebraic numbers is algebraically closed. In fact, it is the smallest algebraically closed field containing the rationals, and is therefore called the algebraic closure of the rationals.
The set of real algebraic numbers itself forms a field.
Algebraic numbers are all numbers that can be defined explicitly or implicitly in terms of polynomials, starting from the rational numbers. One may generalize this to "closed-form numbers", which may be defined in various ways. Most broadly, all numbers that can be defined explicitly or implicitly in terms of polynomials, exponentials, and logarithms are called "elementary numbers", and these include the algebraic numbers, plus some transcendental numbers. Most narrowly, one may consider numbers explicitly defined in terms of polynomials, exponentials, and logarithms – this does not include all algebraic numbers, but does include some simple transcendental numbers such as e or ln 2.
Algebraic numbers colored by leading coefficient (red signifies 1 for an algebraic integer)
An algebraic integer is an algebraic number that is a root of a polynomial with integer coefficients with leading coefficient 1 (a monic polynomial). Examples of algebraic integers are 5 + 13√2, 2 − 6i and 1/2(1 + i√3). Therefore, the algebraic integers constitute a proper superset of the integers, as the latter are the roots of monic polynomials x − k for all k ∈ Z. In this sense, algebraic integers are to algebraic numbers what integers are to rational numbers.
The sum, difference and product of algebraic integers are again algebraic integers, which means that the algebraic integers form a ring. The name algebraic integer comes from the fact that the only rational numbers that are algebraic integers are the integers, and because the algebraic integers in any number field are in many ways analogous to the integers. If K is a number field, its ring of integers is the subring of algebraic integers in K, and is frequently denoted as OK. These are the prototypical examples of Dedekind domains.