Dagger category

In mathematics, a dagger category (also called involutive category or category with involution [1][2]) is a category equipped with a certain structure called dagger or involution. The name dagger category was coined by Selinger.[3]

Formal definition

A dagger category is a category equipped with an involutive functor that is the identity on objects, where is the opposite category.

In detail, this means that it associates to every morphism in its adjoint such that for all and ,

Note that in the previous definition, the term "adjoint" is used in a way analogous to (and inspired by) the linear-algebraic sense, not in the category-theoretic sense.

Some sources [4] define a category with involution to be a dagger category with the additional property that its set of morphisms is partially ordered and that the order of morphisms is compatible with the composition of morphisms, that is a<b implies for morphisms a, b, c whenever their sources and targets are compatible.


Remarkable morphisms

In a dagger category , a morphism is called

The latter is only possible for an endomorphism .

The terms unitary and self-adjoint in the previous definition are taken from the category of Hilbert spaces where the morphisms satisfying those properties are then unitary and self-adjoint in the usual sense.

See also


  1. M. Burgin, Categories with involution and correspondences in γ-categories, IX All-Union Algebraic Colloquium, Gomel (1968), pp.3435; M. Burgin, Categories with involution and relations in γ-categories, Transactions of the Moscow Mathematical Society, 1970, v. 22, pp. 161228
  2. J. Lambek, Diagram chasing in ordered categories with involution, Journal of Pure and Applied Algebra 143 (1999), No.13, 293307
  3. P. Selinger, Dagger compact closed categories and completely positive maps, Proceedings of the 3rd International Workshop on Quantum Programming Languages, Chicago, June 30July 1, 2005.
  4. Tsalenko, M.Sh. (2001), "Category with involution", in Hazewinkel, Michiel, Encyclopedia of Mathematics, Springer, ISBN 978-1-55608-010-4
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