Definition:Linear Momentum

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The linear momentum of a body is its mass multiplied by its velocity.

$\mathbf p = m \mathbf v$

As mass is a scalar quantity and velocity is a vector quantity, it follows that linear momentum is a vector quantity.


The dimension of measurement of linear momentum is $\mathsf {M L T}^{-1}$.

Relativistic Model

A more accurate model for the linear momentum of a body is given by:

$\mathbf p = \gamma m \mathbf v$

where $\gamma$ is the Lorentz factor:

$\gamma = \dfrac c {\sqrt {c^2 - v^2} } = \dfrac 1 {\sqrt {1 - v^2 / c^2} }$


$c$ is the speed of light in vacuum
$v$ is the magnitude of $\mathbf v$: $v = \size {\mathbf v}$

It is clear $\gamma \approx 1$ (and thus that $\mathbf p \approx m \mathbf v$) for values of $v$ much less than $c$.

Also known as

Linear momentum is frequently referred to as just momentum.

Also see

  • Results about linear momentum can be found here.

Linguistic Note

The plural of momentum is momenta.