If one angle of a triangle is 90 degrees and one of the other angles is known, the third is thereby fixed, because the three angles of any triangle add up to 180 degrees. The two acute angles therefore add up to 90 degrees: they are complementary angles. The shape of a triangle is completely determined, except for similarity, by the angles. Once the angles are known, the ratios of the sides are determined, regardless of the overall size of the triangle. If the length of one of the sides is known, the other two are determined. These ratios are given by the following trigonometric functions of the known angle A, where a, b and c refer to the lengths of the sides in the accompanying figure:
- Tangent function (tan), defined as the ratio of the opposite leg to the adjacent leg.
The hypotenuse is the side opposite to the 90 degree angle in a right triangle; it is the longest side of the triangle and one of the two sides adjacent to angle A. The adjacent leg is the other side that is adjacent to angle A. The opposite side is the side that is opposite to angle A. The terms perpendicular and base are sometimes used for the opposite and adjacent sides respectively. Many people find it easy to remember what sides of the right triangle are equal to sine, cosine, or tangent, by memorizing the word SOH-CAH-TOA (see below under Mnemonics).
The reciprocals of these functions are named the cosecant (csc or cosec), secant (sec), and cotangent (cot), respectively:
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