nLab strict factorization system



A strict factorization system is like an orthogonal factorization system, but the factorizations are specified uniquely on the nose, rather than merely up to isomorphism.


A strict factorization system on a category CC comprises wide subcategories EE and MM of CC such that every morphism in CC factors uniquely (not just uniquely up to unique isomorphism) as mem e for eEe \in E and mMm \in M.

Note that a strict factorization system is not necessarily an orthogonal factorization system, since EE and MM may not contain the isomorphisms in CC. However, for every strict factorization system, there is a unique orthogonal factorization system containing it, given by closing EE under postcomposition by isomorphisms and closing MM under precomposition by isomorphisms (see §2.1 of Grandis (2000)).


  • Every category has two “trivial” strict factorization systems in which EE, respectively MM, consists of the identity morphisms only. The corresponding orthogonal factorization systems are those with one class consisting of the isomorphisms.

  • Part of the structure of a (non-generalized) Reedy category is a strict factorization system.

  • The category Set, as defined in a material set theory, has a strict factorization system consisting of the surjections and the inclusions of subsets. Its associated orthogonal factorization system consists of surjections and injections. Other categories built out of structured sets have similar strict factorization systems.

As distributive laws in a bicategory

One reason strict factorization systems are of interest is that they can be identified with distributive laws in the bicategory of spans, as shown by Rosebrugh & Wood (2002).

Ordinary orthogonal factorization systems can be similarly characterized by:


Strict factorization systems were defined in:

  • Marco Grandis. Weak subobjects and the epi-monic completion of a category. Journal of Pure and Applied Algebra 154.1-3 (2000): 193-212.

See also:

Last revised on June 29, 2023 at 17:49:31. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.