I want to describe a star-like structure as shown in the following figure. In the figure, the center object is surrounded by a number of other objects, and there are rays pointing from the center point to the surrounding objects.

Illustration of lines emanating outward in various directions from a central, common source

Figure 1

The idea is that the center object can be represented by the set of the surrounding objects due to similar appearance.

I want to name this structure as a Radial Representation of the center object. Is word radial in appropriate usage? (I am writing a technical paper, and I want give this structure a proper name.)

  • What is the subject of the paper? Physics? Electronics? Computing? etc. This may be important if a pre-existing term is available. Alternatively, I might suggest: "Star representation" or "Orbital representation", but this does have the connotation that the external nodes are moving. Commented Oct 21, 2013 at 15:44
  • This is related to image processing. The center image is a weighted sum of the surrounding images. There isn't a pre-existing term. I want to give it a name that makes it stand out.
    – Shawn
    Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 4:11
  • @JamesWebster "Orbital" to me would suggest that the outer nodes are arranged in rings.
    – Beejamin
    Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 2:42

3 Answers 3


“Radial representation” is not appropriate as a description of that figure. For one thing, the terms star network and star topology are in common use for configurations like that shown in the question. (For other pictures, see google images. Note, also see hub and spoke images.) For another, radial is already in use for a different purpose than for star networks. (The left picture below shows a radial-leaded fuse. The right picture shows a radial-leaded LED and radial-leaded capacitor next to an axial-leaded resistor.) Because of that pre-existing usage, “radial representation” is likely to just cause confusion.

fuse LED,capacitor,resistor

  • On the other hand, radial 'drainage' is somewhat like the diagram mentioned by OTP. And even a google search of 'radial' shows such diagrams. :) Commented Oct 20, 2013 at 5:30
  • I think an earlier term was 'spider diagram'. Commented Oct 20, 2013 at 13:12
  • What is the proper way of describing the structure as shown in Figure 1? One thing I forgot to mention, this is not a network as in the phrase "communication network". Describing it as a network is not appropriate here.
    – Shawn
    Commented Oct 21, 2013 at 15:18
  • stellate? resembling a star.
    – lbf
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 3:59

Your description:

...the center object is surrounded by a number of other objects, and there are rays pointing from the center point to the surrounding objects.

sounds very similar to the dictionary definition of radial:

a radial pattern or design consists of straight lines that all go out from the center of a circle

So a describing the figure as a radial representation would be entirely appropriate.

My only question -- and it's one that your paper might already answer -- is, a radial representation of what, exactly?

  • To give explanation of what the radial representation is here is not possible (I have 2 pages for describing it in the paper). You can just think of it as an object surrounded by a number of other objects. Ideally, the surrounding objects can represent the center object because they are similar in appearance. Therefore, the structure shown in Figure is named as the Radial Representation of the center object.
    – Shawn
    Commented Oct 21, 2013 at 15:21
  • I thought the underlying explanation might be lengthy. However, as I noted, strictly from the definition of radial, using radial representation to describe your figure is valid.
    – Gnawme
    Commented Oct 21, 2013 at 18:13

Radial might be technically correct, but the fact that it refers to 'radii' might suggest that each spoke is the same length, and so the graph would be a circle.

If the value of the outer nodes combine to create the centre node, how about "Convergence graph" or "Convergence diagram"? It might be worth displaying the direction of the edge between the nodes, to make it clear that they are all pointing in to the centre.

  • 1
    It's not quite correct to link "radial" directly to "radius". They share a root. It would be closer to say that "radial" is similar to "radiating", which does indeed describe the OP's diagram.
    – Aiken Drum
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 9:31

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