A vector is a mathematical tool used to represent physical quantities that require both a magnitude and direction to describe. Such physical quantities include things like positions, velocities and forces.

For example, the velocity of a baseball is a vector quantity - the moving baseball has both a magnitude and a direction. The magnitude of its velocity is known as the speed, so one would say the baseball's speed is 100 km/hr. The direction can be described in many ways (once a coordinate system is chosen): the baseball could be traveling "to the left", "to the west", "in the x-direction", etc.[1]

To learn more about vectors, visit HyperPhysics.


  1. R. Chabay and B. Sherwood, "Describing the 3D World: Vectors," in Matter & Interactions, 3rd ed., Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2011, ch.1, sec.5, pp. 9

Authors and Editors

Jordan Hanania, Jason Donev
Last updated: September 17, 2016
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