Maximal normal subgroup

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This article is about a standard (though not very rudimentary) definition in group theory. The article text may, however, contain more than just the basic definition
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Symbol-free definition

A proper subgroup of a group is termed a maximal normal subgroup if it satisfies the following equivalent conditions:

  • It is normal and the only normal subgroup properly containing it is the whole group
  • It is normal and the quotient group is a simple group

Definition with symbols

A proper subgroup H of a group G is termed a maximal normal subgroup if it satisfies the following conditions:

  • H is normal in G and for any normal subgroup K of G such that K \ge H, either K=H or K=G.
  • H is normal in G and G/H is a simple group.

Equivalence of definitions

Further information: Equivalence of definitions of maximal normal subgroup

The equivalence of definitions basically follows from the fourth isomorphism theorem, which establishes a bijection between normal subgroups of G/H and normal subgroups of G containing H.


Statement Explanation and examples
Nilpotent implies every maximal subgroup is normal In dihedral group:D8, a group of order 8, the cyclic maximal subgroup of order 4 as well as the Klein four-subgroups of dihedral group:D8 are all maximal normal subgroups. Further information: subgroup structure of dihedral group:D8
Index two implies normal In the dihedral group of degree n and order 2n, the cyclic subgroup of order n is a maximal normal subgroup. In symmetric group:S3, the subgroup A3 in S3 is a maximal normal subgroup. Similarly, in symmetric group:S4, the subgroup A4 in S4 is a maximal normal subgroup.
Subgroup of index equal to least prime divisor of group order is normal For instance, in a group of order 45, any subgroup of index 3 (hence order 15) is maximal normal.
Maximal normal iff normal of prime index in solvable In a solvable group, the maximal normal subgroups are precisely the normal subgroups of prime index. Note that all subgroups of prime index need not be normal, though.
In a non-solvable group, maximal normal subgroups could either be normal of prime index or be normal subgroups with the quotient a simple non-abelian group. For instance, in a simple group such as the alternating group on five letters, the trivial subgroup is a maximal normal subgroup. Similarly, in a special linear group over a finite field such as SL(n,q), the center is a maximal normal subgroup, because the quotient, which is a projective special linear group PSL(n,q), is simple. Further information: special linear group is quasisimple, projective special linear group is simple
Infinite groups need not have maximal normal subgroups For instance, \mathbb{Q}, the group of rational numbers, has no maximal normal subgroup.


In terms of the maximal operator

This property is obtained by applying the maximal operator to the property: proper normal subgroup
View other properties obtained by applying the maximal operator

Relation with other properties

Stronger properties

Weaker properties

Other related properties

Related group properties

Related notions


GAP command

This subgroup property can be tested using built-in functionality of Groups, Algorithms, Programming (GAP).
The GAP command for listing all subgroups with this property is:MaximalNormalSubgroups
View subgroup properties testable with built-in GAP command|View subgroup properties for which all subgroups can be listed with built-in GAP commands | View subgroup properties codable in GAP
Learn more about using GAP


Textbook references

  • Groups and representations by Jonathan Lazare Alperin and Rowen B. Bell, ISBN 0387945261, More info, Page 90 (definition introduced in paragraph)
  • A Course in the Theory of Groups by Derek J. S. Robinson, ISBN 0387944613More info, Page 24, Exercises 1.4, Problem 6 (no definition introduced, but problem implicitly asks to show the equivalence of the two definitions given)