Inscribed figure

In geometry, an inscribed planar shape or solid is one that is enclosed by and "fits snugly" inside another geometric shape or solid. To say that "figure F is inscribed in figure G" means precisely the same thing as "figure G is circumscribed about figure F". A circle or ellipse inscribed in a convex polygon (or a sphere or ellipsoid inscribed in a convex polyhedron) is tangent to every side or face of the outer figure (but see Inscribed sphere for semantic variants). A polygon inscribed in a circle, ellipse, or polygon (or a polyhedron inscribed in a sphere, ellipsoid, or polyhedron) has each vertex on the outer figure; if the outer figure is a polygon or polyhedron, there must be a vertex of the inscribed polygon or polyhedron on each side of the outer figure. An inscribed figure is not necessarily unique in orientation; this can easily be seen, for example, when the given outer figure is a circle, in which case a rotation of an inscribed figure gives another inscribed figure that is congruent to the original one.

Inscribed circles of various polygons
An inscribed triangle of a circle
A tetrahedron (red) inscribed in a cube (yellow) which is, in turn, inscribed in a rhombic triacontahedron (grey).
(Click here for rotating model)

Familiar examples of inscribed figures include circles inscribed in triangles or regular polygons, and triangles or regular polygons inscribed in circles. A circle inscribed in any polygon is called its incircle, in which case the polygon is said to be a tangential polygon. A polygon inscribed in a circle is said to be a cyclic polygon, and the circle is said to be its circumscribed circle or circumcircle.

The inradius or filling radius of a given outer figure is the radius of the inscribed circle or sphere, if it exists.

The definition given above assumes that the objects concerned are embedded in two- or three-dimensional Euclidean space, but can easily be generalized to higher dimensions and other metric spaces.

For an alternative usage of the term "inscribed", see the inscribed square problem, in which a square is considered to be inscribed in another figure (even a non-convex one) if all four of its vertices are on that figure.


  • Every circle has an inscribed triangle with any three given angle measures (summing of course to 180°), and every triangle can be inscribed in some circle (which is called its circumscribed circle or circumcircle).
  • Every triangle has an inscribed circle, called the incircle.
  • Every circle has an inscribed regular polygon of n sides, for any n≥3, and every regular polygon can be inscribed in some circle (called its circumcircle).
  • Every regular polygon has an inscribed circle (called its incircle), and every circle can be inscribed in some regular polygon of n sides, for any n≥3.
  • Not every polygon with more than three sides has an inscribed circle; those polygons that do are called tangential polygons. Not every polygon with more than three sides is an inscribed polygon of a circle; those polygons that are so inscribed are called cyclic polygons.
  • Every triangle can be inscribed in an ellipse, called its Steiner circumellipse or simply its Steiner ellipse, whose center is the triangle's centroid.
  • Every triangle has an infinitude of inscribed ellipses. One of them is a circle, and one of them is the Steiner inellipse which is tangent to the triangle at the midpoints of the sides.
  • Every acute triangle has three inscribed squares. In a right triangle two of them are merged and coincide with each other, so there are only two distinct inscribed squares. An obtuse triangle has a single inscribed square, with one side coinciding with part of the triangle's longest side.
  • A Reuleaux triangle, or more generally any curve of constant width, can be inscribed with any orientation inside a square of the appropriate size.

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