Let's start by defining what reflection is, in the context of Geometry.
Definition of Reflection in Geometry
In Geometry, reflection is a transformation where each point in a shape is moved an equal distance across a given line. The line is called the line of reflection.
This type of transformation creates a mirror image of a shape, also known as a flip.
The original shape being reflected is called the preimage, whilst the reflected shape is known as the reflected image. The reflected image has the same size and shape as the preimage, only that this time it faces the opposite direction.
Example of Reflection in Geometry
Let's take a look at an example to understand more clearly the different concepts involved in reflection.
Figure 1 shows a triangle shape at the righthand side of the yaxis (preimage), that has been reflected over the yaxis (line of reflection), creating a mirror image (reflected image).
The steps that you need to follow to reflect a shape over a line are given later in this article. Read on if you want to know more!
Real Life Examples of Reflection in Geometry
Let's think about where we can find reflections in our daily lives.
a) The most obvious example will be looking at yourself in the mirror, and seeing your own image reflected on it, facing you. Figure 2 shows a cute cat reflected in a mirror.
Whatever or whoever is in front of the mirror will be reflected on it.
b) Another example could be the reflection that you see in water. However, in this case, the reflected image can be slightly distorted in comparison to the original one. See Figure 3.
c) You can also find reflections on things made out of glass, like shop windows, glass tables, etc. See Figure 4.
Now let's dive into the rules that you need to follow to perform reflections in Geometry.
Reflection Rules in Geometry
Geometric shapes on the coordinate plane can be reflected over the xaxis, over the yaxis, or over a line in the form \(y = x\) or \(y = x\). In the following sections, we will describe the rules that you need to follow in each case.
Reflection over the xaxis
The rule for reflecting over the xaxis is shown in the table below.
Type of Reflection  Reflection Rule  Rule Description 
Reflection over the xaxis  \[(x, y) \rightarrow (x, y)\] 

The steps to follow to perform a reflection over the xaxis are:
Step 1: Following the reflection rule for this case, change the sign of the ycoordinates of each vertex of the shape, by multiplying them by \(1\). The new set of vertices will correspond to the vertices of the reflected image.
\[(x, y) \rightarrow (x, y)\]
Step 2: Plot the vertices of the original and reflected images on the coordinate plane.
Step 3: Draw both shapes by joining their corresponding vertices together with straight lines.
Let's see this more clearly with an example.
A triangle has the following vertices \(A = (1, 3)\), \(B = (1, 1)\) and \(C = (3, 3)\). Reflect it over the xaxis.
Step 1: Change the sign of the ycoordinates of each vertex of the original triangle, to obtain the vertices of the reflected image.
\[\begin{align}\textbf{Preimage} &\rightarrow \textbf{Reflected image} \\ \\(x, y) &\rightarrow (x, y) \\ \\A= (1, 3) &\rightarrow A' = (1, 3) \\ \\B = (1, 1) &\rightarrow B' = (1, 1) \\ \\C = (3, 3) &\rightarrow C' = (3, 3)\end{align}\]Steps 2 and 3: Plot the vertices of the original and reflected images on the coordinate plane, and draw both shapes.
Notice that the distance between each vertex of the preimage and the line of reflection (xaxis) is the same as the distance between their corresponding vertex on the reflected image and the line of of reflection. For example, the vertices \(B = (1, 1)\) and \(B' = (1, 1)\) are both 1 unit away from the xaxis.
Reflection over the yaxis
The rule for reflecting over the yaxis is as follows:
Type of Reflection  Reflection Rule  Rule Description 
Reflection over the yaxis  \[(x, y) \rightarrow (x, y)\] 

The steps to follow to perform a reflection over the yaxis are as pretty much the same as the steps for reflection over the xaxis, but the difference is based of the on the change in the reflection rule. The steps in this case are as follows:
Step 1: Following the reflection rule for this case, change the sign of the xcoordinates of each vertex of the shape, by multiplying them by \(1\). The new set of vertices will correspond to the vertices of the reflected image.
\[(x, y) \rightarrow (x, y)\]
Step 2: Plot the vertices of the original and reflected images on the coordinate plane.
Step 3: Draw both shapes by joining their corresponding vertices together with straight lines.
Let's look at an example.
A square has the following vertices \(D = (1, 3)\), \(E = (1, 1)\), \(F = (3, 1)\) and \(G = (3, 3)\). Reflect it over the yaxis.
Step 1: Change the sign of the xcoordinates of each vertex of the original square, to obtain the vertices of the reflected image.
\[\begin{align}\textbf{Preimage} &\rightarrow \textbf{Reflected image} \\ \\(x, y) &\rightarrow (x, y) \\ \\D= (1, 3) &\rightarrow D' = (1, 3) \\ \\E = (1, 1) &\rightarrow E' = (1, 1) \\ \\F = (3, 1) &\rightarrow F' = (3, 1) \\ \\G = (3, 3) &\rightarrow G' = (3, 3)\end{align}\]Steps 2 and 3: Plot the vertices of the original and reflected images on the coordinate plane, and draw both shapes.
Reflection over the lines y = x or y = x
The rules for reflecting over the lines \(y = x\) or \(y = x\) are shown in the table below:
Type of Reflection  Reflection rule  Rule Description 
Reflection over the line \(y = x\)  \[(x, y) \rightarrow (y, x)\]  The xcoordinates and the ycoordinates of the vertices that form part of the shape swap places. 
Reflection over the line \(y = x\)  \[(x, y) \rightarrow (y, x)\]  In this case, the xcoordinates and the ycoordinates besides swapping places, they also change sign. 
The steps to follow to perform a reflection over the lines \(y = x\) and \(y = x\) are as follows:
Step 1: When reflecting over the line \(y = x\), swap the places of the xcoordinates and the ycoordinates of the vertices of the original shape.
\[(x, y) \rightarrow (y, x)\]
When reflecting over the line \(y = x\), besides swaping the places of the xcoordinates and the ycoordinates of the vertices of the original shape, you also need to change their sign, by multiplying them by \(1\).
\[(x, y) \rightarrow (y, x)\]
The new set of vertices will correspond to the vertices of the reflected image.
Step 2: Plot the vertices of the original and reflected images on the coordinate plane.
Step 3: Draw both shapes by joining their corresponding vertices together with straight lines.
Here are a couple of examples to show you how these rules work. First let's perform a reflection over the line \(y = x\).
A triangle has the following vertices \(A = (2, 1)\), \(B = (0, 3)\) and \(C = (4, 4)\). Reflect it over the line \(y = x\).
Step 1: The reflection is over the line \(y = x\), therefore, you need to swap the places of the xcoordinates and the ycoordinates of the vertices of the original shape, to obtain the vertices of the reflected image.
\[\begin{align}\textbf{Preimage} &\rightarrow \textbf{Reflected image} \\ \\(x, y) &\rightarrow (y, x) \\ \\A= (2, 1) &\rightarrow A' = (1, 2) \\ \\B = (0, 3) &\rightarrow B' = (3, 0) \\ \\C = (4, 4) &\rightarrow C' = (4, 4)\end{align}\]Steps 2 and 3: Plot the vertices of the original and reflected images on the coordinate plane, and draw both shapes.
Now let's see an example reflecting over the line \(y = x\).
A rectangle has the following vertices \(A = (1, 3)\), \(B = (3, 1)\), \(C = (4, 2)\), and \(D = (2, 4)\). Reflect it over the line \(y = x\).
Step 1: The reflection is over the line \(y = x\), therefore, you need to swap the places of the xcoordinates and the ycoordinates of the vertices of the original shape, and change their sign, to obtain the vertices of the reflected image.
\[\begin{align}\textbf{Preimage} &\rightarrow \textbf{Reflected image} \\ \\(x, y) &\rightarrow (y, x) \\ \\A= (1, 3) &\rightarrow A' = (3, 1) \\ \\B = (3, 1) &\rightarrow B' = (1, 3) \\ \\C = (4, 2) &\rightarrow C' = (2, 4) \\ \\D = (2, 4) &\rightarrow D' = (4, 2)\end{align}\]Steps 2 and 3: Plot the vertices of the original and reflected images on the coordinate plane, and draw both shapes.
Reflection Formulas in Coordinate Geometry
Now that we have explored each reflection case separately, let's summarize the formulas of the rules that you need to keep in mind when reflecting shapes on the coordinate plane:
Type of Reflection  Reflection Rule 
Reflection over the xaxis  \[(x, y) \rightarrow (x, y)\] 
Reflection over the yaxis  \[(x, y) \rightarrow (x, y)\] 
Reflection over the line \(y = x\)  \[(x, y) \rightarrow (y, x)\] 
Reflection over the line \(y = x\)  \[(x, y) \rightarrow (y, x)\] 
Reflection in Geometry  Key takeaways
 In Geometry, reflection is a transformation where each point in a shape is moved an equal distance across a given line. The line is called the line of reflection.
 The original shape being reflected is called the preimage, whilst the reflected shape is known as the reflected image.
 When reflecting a shape over the xaxis, change the sign of the ycoordinates of each vertex of the original shape, to obtain the vertices of the reflected image.
 When reflecting a shape over the yaxis, change the sign of the xcoordinates of each vertex of the original shape, to obtain the vertices of the reflected image.
 When reflecting a shape over the line \(y = x\), swap the places of the xcoordinates and the ycoordinates of the vertices of the original shape, to obtain the vertices of the reflected image.
 When reflecting a shape over the line \(y = x\), swap the places of the xcoordinates and the ycoordinates of the vertices of the original shape, and change their sign, to obtain the vertices of the reflected image.
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Frequently Asked Questions about Reflection in Geometry
What is a reflection in geometry?
In Geometry, reflection is a transformation where each point in a shape is moved an equal distance across a given line. The line is called the line of reflection.
How to find a reflection point in coordinate geometry?
It depends on the type of reflection being performed, as each type of reflection follows a different rule. The rules to consider in each case are:
 Reflection over the xaxis → (x, y) when reflected becomes (x, y).
 Reflection over the yaxis → (x, y) when reflected becomes (x, y).
 Reflection over the line y = x → (x, y) when reflected becomes (y, x).
 Reflection over the line y = x → (x, y) when reflected becomes (y, x).
What is an example of reflection in geometry?
A triangle with vertices A (2, 1), B (1, 4), and C (3, 2) is reflected over the xaxis. In this case, we change the sign of the ycoordinates of each vertex of the original shape. Therefore, the vertices of the reflected triangle are A' (2, 1), B' (1, 4), and C' (3, 2).
What are the rules for reflections?
 Reflection over the xaxis → (x, y) when reflected becomes (x, y).
 Reflection over the yaxis → (x, y) when reflected becomes (x, y).
 Reflection over the line y = x → (x, y) when reflected becomes (y, x).
 Reflection over the line y = x → (x, y) when reflected becomes (y, x).
What is a real world example of reflection?
The most obvious example will be looking at yourself in the mirror, and seeing your own image reflected on it, facing you. Other examples include reflections in water and on glass surfaces.
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