Math Wiki
Regular Octahedron
(Click here for rotating model)
Type Platonic solid
Elements F = 8, E = 12
V = 6 (χ = 2)
Faces by sides 8{3}
Schläfli symbol {3,4}
Wythoff symbol 4 | 2 3
Coxeter-Dynkin CDW dot.pngCDW 4.pngCDW dot.pngCDW 3.pngCDW ring.png
Symmetry Oh or (*432)
References U05, C17, W2
Properties Regular convex deltahedron
Dihedral angle 109.47122° = arccos(-1/3)
(Vertex figure)
(dual polyhedron)

An octahedron (plural: octahedra) is a polyhedron with eight faces. A regular octahedron is a Platonic solid composed of eight equilateral triangles, four of which meet at each vertex.

The octahedron's symmetry group is Oh, of order 48. This group's subgroups include D3d (order 12), the symmetry group of a triangular antiprism; D4h (order 16), the symmetry group of a square bipyramid; and Td (order 24), the symmetry group of a rectified tetrahedron. These symmetries can be emphasized by different decorations of the faces.

It is a 3-dimensional cross polytope.

Cartesian coordinates

An octahedron can be placed with its center at the origin and its vertices on the coordinate axes; the Cartesian coordinates of the vertices are then

( ±1, 0, 0 );
( 0, ±1, 0 );
( 0, 0, ±1 ).

Area and volume

The area A and the volume V of a regular octahedron of edge length a are:


Thus the volume is four times that of a regular tetrahedron with the same edge length, while the surface area is twice (because we have 8 vs. 4 triangles).

Geometric relations

The interior of the compound of two dual tetrahedra is an octahedron, and this compound, called the stella octangula, is its first and only stellation. Correspondingly, a regular octahedron is the result of cutting off from a regular tetrahedron, four regular tetrahedra of half the linear size (i.e. rectifying the tetrahedron). The vertices of the octahedron lie at the midpoints of the edges of the tetrahedron, and in this sense it relates to the tetrahedron in the same way that the cuboctahedron and icosidodecahedron relate to the other Platonic solids. One can also divide the edges of an octahedron in the ratio of the golden mean to define the vertices of an icosahedron. This is done by first placing vectors along the octahedron's edges such that each face is bounded by a cycle, then similarly partitioning each edge into the golden mean along the direction of its vector. There are five octahedra that define any given icosahedron in this fashion, and together they define a regular compound.

Octahedra and tetrahedra can be alternated to form a vertex, edge, and face-uniform tessellation of space, called the octet truss by Buckminster Fuller. This is the only such tiling save the regular tessellation of cubes, and is one of the 28 convex uniform honeycombs. Another is a tessellation of octahedra and cuboctahedra.

The octahedron is unique among the Platonic solids in having an even number of faces meeting at each vertex. Consequently, it is the only member of that group to possess mirror planes that do not pass through any of the faces.

Using the standard nomenclature for Johnson solids, an octahedron would be called a square bipyramid.

Related polyhedra


The octahedron can also be considered a rectified tetrahedron - and can be called a tetratetrahedron. This can be shown by a 2-color face model. With this coloring, the octahedron has tetrahedral symmetry.

Compare this truncation sequence between a tetrahedron and its dual:

Uniform polyhedron-33-t0.png
Uniform polyhedron-33-t01.png
Truncated tetrahedron
Uniform polyhedron-33-t1.png
Uniform polyhedron-33-t12.png
Truncated tetrahedron
Uniform polyhedron-33-t2.png

The above shapes may also be realized as slices orthogonal to the long diagonal of a tesseract. If this diagonal is oriented vertically with a height of 1, then the five slices above occur at heights , 3/8, 1/2, 5/8, and , where is any number in the range (0,1/4], and is any number in the range [3/4,1).

Octahedra in the physical world

Fluorite octahedron.

  • Especially in roleplaying games, this solid is known as a "d8", one of the more common non-cubical dice.
  • If each edge of an octahedron is replaced by a one ohm resistor, the resistance between opposite vertices is 1/2 ohms, and that between adjacent vertices 5/12 ohms.[1]
  • Natural crystals of diamond, alum or fluorite are commonly octahedral.
  • The plates of kamacite alloy in octahedrite meteorites are arranged paralleling the eight faces of an octahedron

Octahedra in music

Six musical notes can be arranged on the vertices of an octahedron in such a way that each edge represents a consonant dyad and each face represents a consonant triad; see hexany.

Other octahedra

The following polyhedra are combinatorially equivalent to the regular polyhedron. They all have six vertices, eight triangular faces, and twelve edges that correspond one-for-one with the features of a regular octahedron.

  • Triangular antiprisms: Two faces are equilateral, lie on parallel planes, and have a common axis of symmetry. The other six triangles are isosceles.
  • Tetragonal bipyramids, in which at least one of the equatorial quadrilaterals lies on a plane. The regular octahedron is a special case in which all three quadrilaterals are planar squares.
  • Schönhardt polyhedron, a nonconvex polyhedron that cannot be partitioned into tetrahedra without introducing new vertices.

More generally, an octahedron can be any polyhedron with eight faces. The regular octahedron has 6 vertices and 12 edges, the minimum for an octahedron; nonregular octahedra may have as many as 12 vertices and 18 edges.[1] Other nonregular octahedra include the following.

  • Hexagonal prism: Two faces are parallel regular hexagons; six squares link corresponding pairs of hexagon edges.
  • Heptagonal pyramid: One face is a heptagon (usually regular), and the remaining seven faces are triangles (usually isosceles). It is not possible for all triangular faces to be equilateral.
  • Truncated tetrahedron. The four faces from the tetrahedron are truncated to become regular hexagons, and there are four more equilateral triangle faces where each tetrahedron vertex was truncated.
  • Tetragonal trapezohedron. The eight faces are congruent kites.

See also

  • Spinning octahedron
  • Stella octangula
  • Triakis octahedron
  • Hexakis octahedron
  • Truncated octahedron
  • Octahedral molecular geometry


  1. Klein, Douglas J. (2002). "Resistance-Distance Sum Rules" (PDF). Croatica Chemica Acta 75 (2): 633–649. Retrieved 2006-09-30. 

External links


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