Primitive element (finite field)

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In field theory, a primitive element of a finite field GF(q) is a generator of the multiplicative group of the field. In other words, α ∈ GF(q) is called a primitive element if it is a primitive (q − 1)th root of unity in GF(q); this means that each non-zero element of GF(q) can be written as αi for some integer i.

For example, 2 is a primitive element of the field GF(3) and GF(5), but not of GF(7) since it generates the cyclic subgroup {2, 4, 1} of order 3; however, 3 is a primitive element of GF(7). The minimal polynomial of a primitive element is a primitive polynomial.


Number of primitive elements[edit]

The number of primitive elements in a finite field GF(q) is φ(q − 1), where φ is Euler's totient function, which counts the number of elements less than or equal to m which are relatively prime to m. This can be proved by using the theorem that the multiplicative group of a finite field GF(q) is cyclic of order q − 1, and the fact that a finite cyclic group of order m contains φ(m) generators.

See also[edit]


  • Lidl, Rudolf; Harald Niederreiter (1997). Finite Fields (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-39231-4.

External links[edit]