final functor




A functor F:CDF : C \to D is final (often called cofinal), if we can restrict diagrams on DD to diagrams on CC along FF without changing their colimit.

Dually, a functor is initial (sometimes called co-cofinal) if pulling back diagrams along it does not change the limits of these diagrams.

Beware that this property is pretty much unrelated to that of a functor being an initial object or terminal object in the functor category [C,D][C,D]. The terminology comes instead from the fact that an object dDd\in D is initial (resp. terminal) just when the corresponding functor d:1Dd:1\to D is initial (resp. final).



A functor F:CDF : C \to D is final if for every object dDd \in D the comma category (d/F)(d/F) is non-empty and connected.

A functor F:CDF : C \to D is initial if the opposite F op:C opD opF^{op} : C^{op} \to D^{op} is final, i.e. if for every object dDd \in D the comma category (F/d)(F/d) is non-empty and connected.



Let F:CDF : C \to D be a functor

The following conditions are equivalent.

  1. FF is final.

  2. For all functors G:DSetG : D \to Set the natural function between colimits

    lim GFlim G \lim_\to G \circ F \to \lim_{\to} G

    is a bijection.

  3. For all categories EE and all functors G:DEG : D \to E the natural morphism between colimits

    lim GFlim G \lim_\to G \circ F \to \lim_{\to} G

    is a isomorphism.

  4. For all functors G:D opSetG : D^{op} \to Set the natural function between limits

    lim Glim GF op \lim_\leftarrow G \to \lim_\leftarrow G \circ F^{op}

    is a bijection.

  5. For all categories EE and all functors G:D opEG : D^{op} \to E the natural morphism

    lim Glim GF op \lim_\leftarrow G \to \lim_\leftarrow G \circ F^{op}

    is an isomorphism.

  6. For all dDd \in D

    lim cCHom D(d,F(c))*. {\lim_\to}_{c \in C} Hom_D(d,F(c)) \simeq * \,.

If F:CDF : C \to D is final then CC is connected precisely if DD is.


If F 1F_1 and F 2F_2 are final, then so is their composite F 1F 2F_1 \circ F_2.

If F 2F_2 and the composite F 1F 2F_1 \circ F_2 are final, then so is F 1F_1.

If F 1F_1 is a full and faithful functor and the composite is final, then both functors seperately are final.

The first two statements of Proposition in fact follow from the stability properties of orthogonal factorization systems:


Final functors and discrete fibrations form an orthogonal factorization system.


The generalization of the notion of final functor from category theory to (∞,1)-higher category theory is described at

The characterization of final functors is also a special case of the characterization of exact squares.



If DD has a terminal object then the functor F:*DF : {*} \to D that picks that terminal object is final: for every dDd \in D the comma category d/Fd/F is equivalent to **. The converse is also true: if a functor *D*\to D is final, then its image is a terminal object.

In this case the statement about preservation of colimits states that the colimit over a category with a terminal object is the value of the diagram at that object. Which is also readily checked directly.


Every right adjoint functor is final.


Let (LR):CD(L \dashv R) : C \to D be a pair of adjoint functors.To see that RR is final, we may for instance check that for all dDd \in D the comma category d/Rd / R is non-empty and connected:

It is non-empty because it contains the adjunction unit (L(d),dRL(d))(L(d), d \to R L (d)). Similarly, for

d f g R(a) R(b) \array{ && d \\ & {}^{\mathllap{f}}\swarrow && \searrow^{\mathrlap{g}} \\ R(a) &&&& R(b) }

two objects, they are connected by a zig-zag going through the unit, by the universal factorization property of adjunctions

d R(a) Rf¯ RL(d) R(g¯) R(b). \array{ && d \\ & \swarrow &\downarrow& \searrow \\ R(a) &\stackrel{R \bar f}{\leftarrow}& R L (d)& \stackrel{R(\bar g)}{\to} & R(b) } \,.

The inclusion 𝒞𝒞˜\mathcal{C} \to \tilde \mathcal{C} of any category into its idempotent completion is final.

See at idempotent completion in the section on Finality.


The inclusion of the cospan diagram into its cocone

(a c b)(a c p b) \left( \array{ a \\ \downarrow \\ c \\ \uparrow \\ b } \right) \hookrightarrow \left( \array{ a \\ \downarrow & \searrow \\ c &\longrightarrow & p \\ \uparrow & \nearrow \\ b } \right)

is initial.


By the characterization (here) of limits in a slice category, this implies that fiber products in a slice category are computed as fiber products in the underlying category, or in other words that dependent sum to the point preserves fiber products.


Section 2.5 of

Section 2.11 of

  • Francis Borceux, Handbook of categorical algebra 1, Basic category theory

Notice that this says “final functor” for the version under which limits are invariant.

Section IX.3 of

Last revised on September 27, 2018 at 09:05:09. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.