Arccos Calculator (Inverse Cosine)

Created by Hanna Pamuła, PhD candidate
Reviewed by Bogna Szyk and Jack Bowater
Last updated: Mar 23, 2022

Welcome to the arccos calculator, a.k.a. the inverse cosine calculator. Thanks to our tool you can quickly find arccos - which is, surprisingly, the primary use of this calculator. However, for those of you eager to learn more, we've prepared a short article explaining what the inverse of a cosine is, accompanied by a table and an inverse cosine graph. Also, if you're a bit reluctant or confused, jump to the section about arccos applications to read what inverse cosine has in common with Physics, Chemistry, or even house construction and work ergonomics!

What is the inverse of cosine (arccos)?

Arccos is the inverse of a trigonometric function - specifically, the inverse of the cosine function. However, as trigonometric functions are periodic, then, in a strict sense, they cannot be inverted. We can deal with that problem by choosing an interval in which the basic function is monotonic. You can pick many different ranges, but for cosine the common choice is [0,π]. This range is called the set of principal values.

Abbreviation Definition Domain of arccos x
for real result
Range of usual
principal values
arccos(x)
cos-1x,
acos
x = cos(y) -1 ≤ x ≤ 1 0 ≤ y ≤ π
0° ≤ y ≤ 180°

Arccos(x) is the most commonly used notation, as cos-1x may be misleading - remember that inverse cosine is not the same as the reciprocal of the function (in other words, raising to the power -1):

cos-1x ≠ 1/cos(x)

Inverse cosine graph

A function f has an inverse function if, and only if, f is a one-to-one function. The whole cosine function is not one-to-one, since

cos(x) = cos(x + 2πn) , for every integer n

What can we do then?

As stated in the previous paragraph, we need to restrict the domain of basic periodic cosine function. Thus, as cosine is always in the range [-1,1], and we choose the domain, [0,π], the inverse cosine function properties will be the reverse of this:

  • Inverse cosine domain of x for real result: [-1,1]

  • Inverse cosine range of usual principal value: [0,π]

In the table below you will find the inverse cosine graph, as well as some commonly used arccos values:

x arccos(x) Graph
° rad
-1 180° π Arccosine
-√3 / 2 150° 5π/6
-√2 / 2 135° 3π/4
-1/2 120° 2π/3
0 90° π/2
1/2 60° π/3
√2 / 2 45° π/4
√3 / 2 30° π/6
1 0

Wondering where this inverse cosine graph comes from? It's simply created by reflecting the graph of cos x through the line y = x (don't forget about our domain restrictions!):

Arccos, cos, and identity

Inverse cosine - why should I care? Some obscure arccos applications

You may think that arccos is another useless term from trigonometry, but we want to convince you this is not the case! The inverse cosine function is really helpful for many scientific and real-life problems (awesome, isn't it?):

I Science

Maths:

  • 📐Solving the triangle, using the law of cosines. If you know the three sides of a triangle, and you'd like to find any of the triangle's angles, you'll need to use arccos.
  • ⛓Calculating the shape of a hanging chain: arccos describes the catenary curve.

Physics:

Chemistry:

  • 🧪 Arccos is useful for estimating optimal bond angles of polyatomic molecules, like e.g. H2O or CH4

II Real-life examples

  • 🏠 Calculating roof pitch or inclination angle of the staircase (though depending on what dimensions are given, inverse sine or inverse tangent calculators may also be handy)
  • Designing a ramp for disabled or pushchairs. Inverse cosine will be extremely useful if you know ramp length and available horizontal distance.
  • 🖥️ Even choosing ergonomic position at work! If you want to properly set up your work station, you'll need to find proper desk height or standing desk height, which can be made with our tools. But positioning the monitor - finding tilt angle or your viewing angle - is a way easier with this arccos calculator.

Are you convinced now? Don't wait any longer, use our inverse cosine calculator to solve (almost all) problems of this world.

Hanna Pamuła, PhD candidate
y = arccos(x) , −1 ≤ x ≤ 1
x
y
deg
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