Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What is the name for the axis that "inclination angle" is measured from in spherical coordinates?

I keep trying to call it "polar axis", and the other axis from which the azimuth is measured, the "azimuthal axis". Is this correct?

share|cite|improve this question
By "elevation", I meant the axis from which the "polar angle" is measured. On the wiki, they call this the "inclination angle"! Sorry, I actually had a mistake in the question! – bobobobo May 9 '12 at 1:27
Ah, I see. Sorry for the confusion. – David Mitra May 9 '12 at 1:29
Even if some reference asserts the existence of a standard name for this axis, I would not use any term expecting people to know what it is. I assure you, the vast majority of people know of no standard name for that axis (except maybe "the $z$-axis"?). There is also no universal convention about which of the angles in spherical coordinates is called $\theta$ and which is $\varphi$ (and hence which angle is the "azimuthal angle"). Mathematicians tend to prefer $\theta$ to be the angle that is most analogous to the $\theta$ in 2D polar coordinates; many physicists use the opposite convention. – leslie townes May 9 '12 at 1:40
It would be easier to respond if you could tell us which variable precisely using this diagram as reference. – Sniper Clown May 9 '12 at 1:40
To me, inclination is $\frac \pi 2-\theta$, that is, it is measured from the $xy$ plane and has a range of $[-90^{\circ },90^\circ ]$ as the people who use "inclination" also measure in degrees – Ross Millikan May 9 '12 at 2:31

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.