We have to find an adjective to describe a family of abstract mathematical objects with a shape that (in an abstract setting) reminds of a diagonal polygonal line like the following.

enter image description here

The segments composing it can have arbitrary lengths, but are always at a 45° angle with the horizontal direction.

We first considered zig-zag, translating literally from our native language, but we were told by a colleague (also not a native English speaker) that it's not a common word at all in the US and would not be a good description. Also, most Google Image results for "zig-zag" return a regular pattern in which all segments have the same length, which is not our case.

Another suggestion was twisted.

What would be the most fitting term?

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    I'm a reasonable linguist and I taught mathematics to beyond A-Level. You can never prove a negative, but I'd say the probability of your finding a better term than zig-zag is extremely low. // I'd check online to assess the reliability of your colleague's opinions. They don't match mine. And Wikipedia labels the most obvious example 'a regular zigzag'. Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 10:51
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    ... The first non-regular example I saw in a Google image search, in an article by Jeremy Wagner, makes 'all Google Image results for "zig-zag" return a regular pattern in which all segments have the same length' rather suspect. / Dictionary definitions vary in the strengths of their suggestions of regularity for the bare term 'zigzag'. // Google Ngrams for zig-zag and zigzag for the relevant US corpora show little change from those based on the more general corpora. Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 11:09
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    I think zigzag is a perfectly good name for this object. It's common enough that everybody knows what it is; it's not already in use as a mathematical term; and its real meaning is close to the definition you want. Much better than twisted. Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 11:35
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    You could say 'crooked' but 'zig-zag' is better, in my opinion.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 12:12
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    Twisted is completely wrong though. It doesn't fit the straight segments and would describe loops better. The only other word I could offer is jagged but I don't recommend it over zigzag
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 12:48

1 Answer 1


A Google image search for “irregular zig-zag" gives results most consistent with your illustration, such as this one:

enter image description here

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    Good answer, but you have used "zig-zag" as a noun whereas OP asks for an adjective. I'd suggest editing in a dictionary entry (e.g. dictionary.com) which clarifies that it is also an adjective.
    – AndyT
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 16:00
  • Actually, I merely googled for a collocation. "irregular zig-zag" could just as easily be two adjectives.
    – KarlG
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 16:40
  • An irregularly zig-zagged line (with uniform angles).
    – Davo
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 17:00

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