# nLab disjoint union

Disjoint unions

category theory

## Applications

#### Limits and colimits

limits and colimits

# Disjoint unions

## Idea

The disjoint union is a coproduct in Set, the category of sets.

In a general category coproducts need not have the expected disjointness property of those in Set. If they do they are called disjoint coproducts.

## Definition

Given any family $(A_i)_{i:I}$ of sets, the (external) disjoint union $\biguplus_i A_i$ (also written $\sum_i A_i$, $\coprod_i A_i$, etc) of the family is the set of all (ordered) pairs $(i,a)$ with $i$ in the index set $I$ and $a$ in $A_i$.

As stated, the type of the second element of such a pair depends on the first element, which is natural in dependent type theory (see at dependent sum type) and no problem for material set theory, but it may be ill formed in a structural set theory or in some forms of type theory, especially those based on the internal language of topos theory. Alternatively, one may define $\biguplus_i A_i$ to be the set of those elements $x$ of the cartesian product $\prod_i \mathcal{P}A_i$ of the power sets such that there is exactly one index $j$ such that $x_j$ is inhabited and that $x_j$ is a singleton. If you're trying to be predicative too, then you may need to simply adopt the existence of disjoint unions as an axiom (the axiom of disjoint unions) in your foundations, stating the following facts about it.

There is a natural injection $A_j \to \biguplus_i A_i$ (mapping $a$ to $(j,a)$, or mapping $a$ to $(i \mapsto \{a \;|\; i = j\})$) for each index $j$. Conversely, for each element $x$ of $\biguplus_i A_i$, there is a unique index $j$ and such that $x$ is in the image of the injection from $A_j$. It is common to treat $A_j$ as a subset of $\biguplus_i A_i$; so if no confusion can result (in particular, when the notation for an element of $A_j$ always makes the ambient set clear), one often suppresses the index in the notation for an element of the disjoint union.

## Special cases

Given sets $A$ and $B$, the disjoint union of the binary family $(A,B)$ is written $A \uplus B$ (also $A + B$, $A \amalg B$, etc); its elements may be written (if care is needed) as $(0,a)$ and $(1,b)$, $(1,a)$ and $(2,b)$, $\iota{a}$ and $\kappa{b}$, and in many other styles.

Given sets $A_1$ through $A_n$, the disjoint union of the $n$-ary family $(A_1,\ldots,A_n)$ is written $\biguplus_{i=1}^n A_i$ (or similarly); its elements may be written (if care is needed) as $(i,a)$ for $1 \leq i \leq n$ and $a \in A_i$.

Given sets $A_1$, $A_2$, etc, the disjoint union of the countably infinitary family $(A_1,A_2,\ldots)$ is written $\biguplus_{i=1}^\infty A_i$ (or similarly); its elements may be written (if care is needed) as $(i,a)$ for $i$ a natural number and $a \in A_i$.

Given a set $A$, the disjoint union of the unary family $(A)$ may be identified with $A$ itself; that is, we identify $(i,a)$ for the unique index $i$ with $a$.

The disjoint union of the empty family $()$ is empty; it has no elements.

## Internal version

(This is internal in the sense of ‘internal direct sum’, not internalization. For that, just see coproduct.)

If a family $(A_i)_{i: I}$ of subsets of a given set $X$ are all pairwise disjoint (that is, $A_i \cap A_j$ has an element only if $i = j$, for any indices $i$ and $j$), then the union $\bigcup_i A_i$ is naturally bijective with the (external) disjoint union defined above. Conversely, given an external disjoint union $\biguplus_i A_i$, each $A_j$ may be identified with a subset of $\biguplus_i A_i$ (as explained above); these subsets are all pairwise disjoint, and their union is the entire disjoint union.

Accordingly, a union of pairwise disjoint subsets may be called an internal disjoint union. (Compare the internal vs external notions of direct sum.)

## Examples

Last revised on May 18, 2017 at 14:13:27. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.