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General Definition

Let $\struct{S, \circ}$ be a semigroup.

Let $\sequence{a_n}$ be a sequence in $S$.

Informally, a series is what results when an infinite product is taken of $\sequence {a_n}$:

$\ds s := \sum_{n \mathop = 1}^\infty a_n = a_1 \circ a_2 \circ a_3 \circ \cdots$

Formally, a series is a sequence in $S$.

Series in a Standard Number Field

The usual context for the definition of a series occurs when $S$ is one of the standard number fields $\Q, \R, \C$.

The series is what results when $\sequence {a_n}$ is summed to infinity:

$\ds \sum_{n \mathop = 1}^\infty a_n = a_1 + a_2 + a_3 + \cdots$



Sequence of Partial Sums

The sequence $\sequence {s_N}$ defined as the indexed summation:

$\ds s_N: = \sum_{n \mathop = 1}^N a_n = a_1 + a_2 + a_3 + \cdots + a_N$

is the sequence of partial sums of the series $\ds \sum_{n \mathop = 1}^\infty a_n$.

Tail of a Series

Let $N \in \N$.

The expression $\ds \sum_{n \mathop = N}^\infty a_n$ is known as a tail of the series $\ds \sum_{n \mathop = 1}^\infty a_n$.


When there is no danger of confusion, the limits of the summation are implicit and the notations:

$\ds \sum a_n$


$\ds \sum_n a_n$

are often seen for $\ds \sum_{n \mathop = 1}^\infty a_n$.

Also known as

Some sources use the term infinite series, but the adjective is technically redundant in that series are defined as being infinite.

Also see

  • Results about series can be found here.