Angular frequency

In physics, angular frequency ω (also referred to by the terms angular speed, radial frequency, circular frequency, orbital frequency, radian frequency, and pulsatance) is a scalar measure of rotation rate. It refers to the angular displacement per unit time (e.g., in rotation) or the rate of change of the phase of a sinusoidal waveform (e.g., in oscillations and waves), or as the rate of change of the argument of the sine function. Angular frequency (or angular speed) is the magnitude of the vector quantity angular velocity. The term angular frequency vector is sometimes used as a synonym for the vector quantity angular velocity.[1]

One revolution is equal to 2π radians, hence[1][2]


ω is the angular frequency or angular speed (measured in radians per second),
T is the period (measured in seconds),
f is the ordinary frequency (measured in hertz) (sometimes symbolised with ν).


In SI units, angular frequency is normally presented in radians per second, even when it does not express a rotational value or it does. From the perspective of dimensional analysis, the unit Hertz (Hz) is also correct, but in practice it is only used for ordinary frequency f, and almost never for ω. This convention helps avoid confusion.[3]

In digital signal processing, the angular frequency may be normalized by the sampling rate, yielding the normalized frequency.

Examples of Angular Frequency

Circular Motion

In a rotating or orbiting object, there is a relation between distance from the axis, , tangential speed,, and the angular frequency of the rotation. During one period, , a body in circular motion travels a distance . This distance is also equal to the circumference of the path traced out by the body, . Setting these two quantities equal, and recalling the link between period and angular frequency we obtain:

Oscillations of a spring

An object attached to a spring can oscillate. If the spring is assumed to be ideal and massless with no damping, then the motion is simple and harmonic with an angular frequency given by[4]


k is the spring constant,
m is the mass of the object.

ω is referred to as the natural frequency (which can sometimes be denoted as ω0).

As the object oscillates, its acceleration can be calculated by

where x is displacement from an equilibrium position.

Using "ordinary" revolutions-per-second frequency, this equation would be

LC circuits

The resonant angular frequency in a series LC circuit equals the square root of the reciprocal of the product of the capacitance (C measured in farads) and the inductance of the circuit (L, with SI unit henry):[5]

Adding series resistance (for example, due to the resistance of the wire in a coil) does not change the resonant frequency of the series LC circuit. For a parallel tuned circuit, the above equation is often a useful approximation, but the resonant frequency does depend on the losses of parallel elements.


Angular frequency is often loosely referred to as frequency, although in a strict sense these two quantities differ by a factor of .

See also

References and notes

  1. Cummings, Karen; Halliday, David (2007). Understanding physics. New Delhi: John Wiley & Sons Inc., authorized reprint to Wiley – India. pp. 449, 484, 485, 487. ISBN 978-81-265-0882-2.(UP1)
  2. Holzner, Steven (2006). Physics for Dummies. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley Publishing Inc. p. 201. ISBN 978-0-7645-5433-9.
  3. Lerner, Lawrence S. (1996-01-01). Physics for scientists and engineers. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-86720-479-7.
  4. Serway, Raymond A.; Jewett, John W. (2006). Principles of physics (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks / Cole – Thomson Learning. pp. 375, 376, 385, 397. ISBN 978-0-534-46479-0.
  5. Nahvi, Mahmood; Edminister, Joseph (2003). Schaum's outline of theory and problems of electric circuits. McGraw-Hill Companies (McGraw-Hill Professional). pp. 214, 216. ISBN 0-07-139307-2.(LC1)

Related Reading:

  • Olenick, Richard P.; Apostol, Tom M.; Goodstein, David L. (2007). The Mechanical Universe. New York City: Cambridge University Press. pp. 383–385, 391–395. ISBN 978-0-521-71592-8.
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