Non-Euclidean geometry
Overview

Non-Euclidean geometry is the term used to refer to two specific geometries which are, loosely speaking, obtained by negating the Euclidean parallel postulate
Parallel postulate
In geometry, the parallel postulate, also called Euclid's fifth postulate because it is the fifth postulate in Euclid's Elements, is a distinctive axiom in Euclidean geometry...

, namely hyperbolic
Hyperbolic geometry
In mathematics, hyperbolic geometry is a non-Euclidean geometry, meaning that the parallel postulate of Euclidean geometry is replaced...

and elliptic geometry
Elliptic geometry
Elliptic geometry is a non-Euclidean geometry, in which, given a line L and a point p outside L, there exists no line parallel to L passing through p. Elliptic geometry, like hyperbolic geometry, violates Euclid's parallel postulate, which can be interpreted as asserting that there is exactly one...

. This is one term which, for historical reasons, has a meaning in mathematics which is much narrower than it appears to have in the general English language. There are a great many geometries which are not Euclidean geometry
Euclidean geometry
Euclidean geometry is a mathematical system attributed to the Alexandrian Greek mathematician Euclid, which he described in his textbook on geometry: the Elements. Euclid's method consists in assuming a small set of intuitively appealing axioms, and deducing many other propositions from these...

, but only these two are referred to as the non-Euclidean geometries.

The essential difference between Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry is the nature of parallel
Parallel (geometry)
Parallelism is a term in geometry and in everyday life that refers to a property in Euclidean space of two or more lines or planes, or a combination of these. The assumed existence and properties of parallel lines are the basis of Euclid's parallel postulate. Two lines in a plane that do not...

lines.