In mathematics, physics, mechanics and the like, one encounters eigen as a prefix in eigenvalues and eigenvectors, as well as in eigenstrain and eigenstress. The word comes from German and means “own” or “intrinsic”. In the English scientific literature eigen is widely accepted and commonly employed.

Have the terms eigenvecteur and eigenvaleurs ever been used in French (even as neologisms)? Is their use in French acceptable (university level and higher) nowadays (in place of the adjective propre; that is, "valeurs propres, vecteurs propres")?

In that case the diphthong ei should be pronounced as in German (aï) ? If its use isn't acceptable, what reasons could explain why eigen was not introduced in French?

  • 2
    In French, the word eigen is not in use as you can easily see. In English, we use it since the first translation of Hilbert, who introduced the term in German (cf. wikipedia: valeur propre, vecteur propre, espace propre). Wikipedia also says that Jordan introduced the French terminology: valeur propre. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 12:10
  • @user66288 Comments should be used to ask for clarifications or suggest improvements. Your comment looks like an answer so would benefit to be posted as such. (As a bonus, changing your nickname from user<somenumber> to something more distinctive would be nice...)
    – jlliagre
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 15:12

1 Answer 1


The academic translation of eigenvalue is

valeur propre 

This is what you will most likely find in most of the academic documents.

[Vecteur propre for eigenvector merci @Regis Portalez]


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.