Are questions about the names of things in mathematics on-topic on math.SE? If not, can they be asked in Meta?

I am quite good at mathematics but often I don't know what things are called. For instance, I wanted to find the area under a curve for a particular function. I looked up the name of the function on Wikipedia and there was a huge amount of information. I didn't know what I was looking for was called integration until I posted a question on math.SE. Someone left a comment saying that the information I wanted was given in detail on the Wikipedia page, which once I knew what the name was I was able to verify.

So, where is the best place to ask what things are called?

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    $\begingroup$ If you are trying to choose between meta and main, then you should ask on main. These are not at all appropriate for meta [which is for topics related to the runnings of the site itself]. So go for it. Or you can ask in chat. But really, how many different questions about names can you have? $\endgroup$
    – davidlowryduda Mod
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 11:32
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    $\begingroup$ @mixedmath The answer to that question is not computable in advance... :-) $\endgroup$
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ Are some of the questions on the main site, which are tagged (terminology), similar to the type of questions you have in mind? My impression is that most of the questions in this tag have been well received. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin Good to know there's a terminology tag. I feel silly asking what seems to me to be such a basic question, but it seems that usually the more basic a question is, the better it is received. I also feel that if I know how and when to apply, say, Newton's Method and why it works, then I should already know what it's called. $\endgroup$
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ It seems you would benefit from some of the books that give a survey of all of mathematics. i have What Is Mathematics by Courant and Robbins. also The Universal Encyclopedia of Mathematics translated from a 1960 German original. Other books that specialize a bit, Geometry and the Imagination by Hilbert and Cohn-Vossen. See also maa.org/press/books for more recent books, many categories. $\endgroup$
    – Will Jagy
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ @WillJagy That sounds like a great way to learn things about maths I never knew before, but I'm not sure how I would use it to find the name of a concept I already know about? $\endgroup$
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ It's the difference between a dictionary and an encyclopedia. The latter has discussion surrounding concepts you know, and this will include related names. $\endgroup$
    – Will Jagy
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 22:49
  • $\begingroup$ @WillJagy Would I be able to look up "area under a curve" to find the name "integration", as an example? $\endgroup$
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 22:56
  • $\begingroup$ Tell you what, try that in Google and, more to the point, Wikipedia. Yes, the second choice seems better. I put area under a curve wiki and the very first item was the wikipedia article on integration. $\endgroup$
    – Will Jagy
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 23:04
  • $\begingroup$ @WillJagy OK! Thanks for that. With that example I thought "area under a curve" was the proper name for it until the comment on my question that I mentioned. I've tried searching on Google for other concepts and I haven't found what I was looking for. $\endgroup$
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 23:14
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    $\begingroup$ Wikipedia does have a huge amount of information. Whether that information is correct or not is a whole other story... $\endgroup$
    – Bob Happ
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ @BobHapp I don't know why people bash Wikipedia so much. There a chance that the information is wrong, but the actual occurrence is very low because they have a good model for ensuring correct information. You can't rely on it being correct, but it is rarely wrong. $\endgroup$
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 1:36
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    $\begingroup$ @CJ Two Wikipediocracy posts you should read: wikipediocracy.com/2015/03/15/jared-owens-god-of-wikipedia and wikipediocracy.com/2013/10/20/… $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 4:05
  • $\begingroup$ There are examples of Wikipedia being wrong on math for long periods of time, though I can't think of such an example at the moment. $\endgroup$
    – Mr. Brooks
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 22:54
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    $\begingroup$ But at least with Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, if they make a mistake, we can say "Einstein was wrong" or "Hawking was wrong." If Wikipedia makes a mistake, can we really take or ClueBotNG to task for their mistakes? Can you downvote for a wrong fact? $\endgroup$
    – Mr. Brooks
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 22:20

1 Answer 1


Your question immediately made me wonder how come there isn't a terminology tag. But then I looked it up and found there is in fact such a tag: https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/terminology

Questions on the usage and meaning of words in mathematics, the names for mathematical entities, and other such questions.

This is a recent question with that tag: Is there a term for a function where equal output values must come from only one contiguous range of input values?

It was asked six hours ago and no one has suggested it should be closed for being off-topic.

  • $\begingroup$ I recently asked a question on Meta (not Meta.math) about finding appropriate tags. You don't know what you don't know until you find out! $\endgroup$
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ I wish other stack exchanges were as accepting. I had a question shot down on programmers.stackexchange.com for being a "name that thing" question. I eventually found the answer to it (the term Extract Variable) but was unable to add the answer as the question had been closed and deleted. $\endgroup$
    – Bob Stein
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ @BobStein-VisiBone I've found that as a bit of a gotcha on different Stack Exchange sites. Some communities are very flexible and forgiving, while others will try to shoot you down in flames as quickly as possible. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that all SE sites are equal! $\endgroup$
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 7:35

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