In mathematics, a polynomial is an expression of finite length constructed from variables (also called indeterminates) and constants, using only the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and non-negative integer exponents. However, the division by a constant is allowed, because the multiplicative inverse of a non zero constant is also a constant. For example, x 2 x/4 + 7 is a polynomial, but x 2 4/x + 7x 3/2 is not, because its second term involves division by the variable x (4/x), and also because its third term contains an exponent that is not an integer (3/2). The term "polynomial" can also be used as an adjective, for quantities that can be expressed as a polynomial of some parameter, as in polynomial time, which is used in computational complexity theory.
Polynomial comes from the Greek poly, "many" and medieval Latin binomium, "binomial. The word was introduced in Latin by Franciscus Vieta.
Polynomials appear in a wide variety of areas of mathematics and science. For example, they are used to form polynomial equations, which encode a wide range of problems, from elementary word problems to complicated problems in the sciences; they are used to define polynomial functions, which appear in settings ranging from basic chemistry and physics to economics and social science; they are used in calculus and numerical analysis to approximate other functions. In advanced mathematics, polynomials are used to construct polynomial rings, a central concept in abstract algebra and algebraic geometry.