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In algebra, a semigroup is a set equipped with a binary operation satisfying certain properties similar to but less stringent than those of a group. A motivating example of a semigroup is the set of positive integers with multiplication as the operation.

Formally, a semigroup is a set S with a binary operation satisfying the following conditions:

  • S is closed under ;
  • The operation is associative.

A commutative semigroup is one which satisfies the further property that for all x and y in S. Commutative semigroups are often written additively.

A subsemigroup of S is a subset T of S which is closed under the binary operation and hence is again a semigroup.

A semigroup homomorphism f from semigroup to is a map from S to T satisfying


  • The positive integers under addition form a commutative semigroup.
  • The positive integers under multiplication form a commutative semigroup.
  • Square matrices under matrix multiplication form a semigroup, not in general commutative.
  • Every monoid is a semigroup, by "forgetting" the identity element.
  • Every group is a semigroup, by "forgetting" the identity element and inverse operation.


A congruence on a semigroup S is an equivalence relation which respects the binary operation:

The equivalence classes under a congruence can be given a semigroup structure

and this defines the quotient semigroup .

Cancellation property

A semigroup satisfies the cancellation property if


A semigroup is a subsemigroup of a group if and only if it satisfies the cancellation property.

Free semigroup

The free semigroup on a set G of generators is the set of all words on G, the finite sequences of elements of G, with the binary operation being concatenation (juxtaposition). The free semigroup on one generator g may be identified with the semigroup of positive integers under addition

Every semigroup may be expressed as a quotient of a free semigroup.