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From nil (not any) +‎ potent (having power) with literal meaning “having zero power” - bearing Latin roots nil and potens. Coined in 1870, along with idempotent, by American mathematician Benjamin Peirce to describe elements of associative algebras.


nilpotent (not comparable)

  1. (algebra, ring theory, of an element x of a semigroup or ring) Such that, for some positive integer n, xn = 0.
    • 2012, Martin W. Liebeck, Gary M. Seitz, Unipotent and Nilpotent Classes in Simple Algebraic Groups and Lie Algebras, American Mathematical Society, page 129,
      The rest of this book is devoted to determining the conjugacy classes and centralizers of nilpotent elements in L(G) and unipotent elements in G, where G is an exceptional algebraic group of type E8,E7, E6, F4 or G2 over an algebraically closed field K of characteristic p. This chapter contains statements of the main results for nilpotent elements.

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nilpotent (plural nilpotents)

  1. (algebra) A nilpotent element.
    • 2015, Garret Sobczyk, “Part I: Vector Analysis of Spinors”, in arXiv[1]:
      The so-called spinor algebra of C(2), the language of the quantum mechanics, is formulated in terms of the idempotents and nilpotents of the geometric algebra of space, including its beautiful representation on the Riemann sphere, and a new proof of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.