# Cylinder vs. Prism — What's the Difference?

By Maham Liaqat & Urooj Arif — Updated on April 24, 2024

**A cylinder is a 3D shape with curved sides and circular bases, whereas a prism is a polyhedron with two parallel, congruent faces and other faces as parallelograms.**

## Difference Between Cylinder and Prism

### Table of Contents

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## Key Differences

A cylinder is defined by its curved surface and two parallel circular bases. These bases are always congruent and are connected by a curved surface. In contrast, a prism is characterized by its flat faces; specifically, it has two parallel faces called bases that are congruent polygons, and other faces that are parallelograms.

Cylinders are typically described based on the radius of their bases and the height between them. The volume of a cylinder is calculated as the area of the base times the height (πr²h). On the other hand, the volume of a prism is calculated by the area of the base times the height as well (A_base × height), but the base can be any polygon, affecting the calculation method for the area.

The lateral surface of a cylinder is a rectangle that wraps around the bases when unfolded. This gives the cylinder a seamless surface without edges or vertices along its sides. Conversely, prisms have distinct lateral edges and vertices between each base and the parallelogram sides, giving them a distinctly angular appearance.

In terms of stability, cylinders, due to their rounded shape, may roll easily if placed on their side, making them less stable in certain conditions. Prisms, however, tend to be more stable when resting on one of their rectangular faces due to the flat surfaces.

Educationally, cylinders are often introduced as an example of curved surface area calculations, while prisms serve as a key example for teaching about edges, vertices, and types of polygons, as their structure is more complex in terms of geometric properties.

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## Comparison Chart

### Base Shape

Circle

Any polygon

### Faces

2 circles, 1 curved lateral surface

2 congruent polygonal bases, parallelograms sides

### Volume Formula

πr²h (r = radius, h = height)

A_base × height

### Edges and Vertices

No edges or vertices on the sides

Edges and vertices between the bases and sides

### Stability

Less stable when on side (may roll)

More stable due to flat lateral sides

## Compare with Definitions

#### Cylinder

A solid geometric figure with straight parallel sides and a circular or oval section.

A soup can is shaped like a cylinder.

#### Prism

A solid object with two identical ends and flat sides.

The prism refracted the light into a rainbow.

#### Cylinder

A surface or solid bounded by two parallel planes and a curved surface.

A standard battery is a perfect example of a cylinder.

#### Prism

A transparent optical element with flat, polished surfaces.

Prisms are used in periscopes to bend light.

#### Cylinder

Any cylindrical object or structure.

The gas cylinder contains compressed air.

#### Prism

A polyhedron with two parallel, congruent faces connected by parallelogram faces.

A triangular prism is used in physics experiments to split light.

#### Cylinder

A chamber in an engine where a piston moves.

The engine's power is generated in its cylinders.

#### Prism

Any geometric figure with a uniform cross-section.

The company logo features a prism design.

#### Cylinder

An object with a shape of a circular prism.

Paper rolls are typically stored in cylindrical containers.

#### Prism

A shape used to demonstrate properties of light and color.

He used a prism to show how sunlight splits into different colors.

#### Cylinder

A cylinder (from Greek: κύλινδρος, romanized: kulindros, lit. 'roller', 'tumbler') has traditionally been a three-dimensional solid, one of the most basic of curvilinear geometric shapes. It is the idealized version of a solid physical tin can having lids on top and bottom.

#### Prism

An optical prism is a transparent optical element with flat, polished surfaces that refract light. At least one surface must be angled — elements with two parallel surfaces are not prisms.

#### Cylinder

A solid geometrical figure with straight parallel sides and a circular or oval cross section.

#### Prism

A solid figure whose bases or ends have the same size and shape and are parallel to one another, and each of whose sides is a parallelogram.

#### Cylinder

A piston chamber in a steam or internal combustion engine.

#### Prism

A transparent body of this form, often of glass and usually with triangular ends, used for separating white light passed through it into a spectrum or for reflecting beams of light.

#### Cylinder

A cylinder-shaped container holding liquefied gas under pressure.

#### Prism

A cut-glass object, such as a pendant of a chandelier.

#### Cylinder

A rotating metal roller in a printing press.

#### Prism

A crystal form consisting of three or more similar faces parallel to a single axis.

#### Cylinder

A cylinder seal.

#### Prism

A medium that misrepresents whatever is seen through it.

#### Cylinder

The surface generated by a straight line intersecting and moving along a closed plane curve, the directrix, while remaining parallel to a fixed straight line that is not on or parallel to the plane of the directrix.

#### Prism

(geometry) A polyhedron with parallel ends of the same size and shape, the other faces being parallelogram-shaped sides.

#### Cylinder

The portion of such a surface bounded by two parallel planes and the regions of the planes bounded by the surface.

#### Prism

A transparent block in the shape of a prism (typically with triangular ends), used to split or reflect light.

#### Cylinder

A solid bounded by two parallel planes and such a surface, especially such a surface having a circle as its directrix.

#### Prism

A crystal in which the faces are parallel to the vertical axis.

#### Cylinder

A cylindrical container or object.

#### Prism

A solid whose bases or ends are any similar, equal, and parallel plane figures, and whose sides are parallelograms.

#### Cylinder

The chamber in which a piston of a reciprocating engine moves.

#### Prism

A transparent body, with usually three rectangular plane faces or sides, and two equal and parallel triangular ends or bases; - used in experiments on refraction, dispersion, etc.

#### Cylinder

The chamber of a pump from which fluid is expelled by a piston.

#### Prism

A polyhedron with two congruent and parallel faces (the bases) and whose lateral faces are parallelograms

#### Cylinder

The rotating chamber of a revolver that holds the cartridges.

#### Prism

Optical device having a triangular shape and made of glass or quartz; used to deviate a beam or invert an image

#### Cylinder

Any of several rotating parts in a printing press, especially one that carries the paper.

#### Cylinder

(Archaeology)A cylindrical stone or clay object with an engraved design or inscription.

#### Cylinder

(geometry) A surface created by projecting a closed two-dimensional curve along an axis intersecting the plane of the curve. Category:en:Surfaces

When the two-dimensional curve is a circle, the cylinder is called a circular cylinder. When the axis is perpendicular to the plane of the curve, the cylinder is called a right cylinder. In non-mathematical usage, both right and circular are usually implied.

#### Cylinder

(geometry) A solid figure bounded by a cylinder and two parallel planes intersecting the cylinder.

#### Cylinder

Any object in the form of a circular cylinder.

#### Cylinder

A cylindrical cavity or chamber in a mechanism, such as the counterpart to a piston found in a piston-driven engine.

#### Cylinder

(automotive) The space in which a piston travels inside a reciprocating engine or pump.

#### Cylinder

A container in the form of a cylinder with rounded ends for storing pressurized gas; a gas cylinder.

#### Cylinder

An early form of phonograph recording, made on a wax cylinder.

#### Cylinder

The part of a revolver that contains chambers for the cartridges.

#### Cylinder

(computing) The corresponding tracks on a vertical arrangement of disks in a disk drive considered as a unit of data capacity.

#### Cylinder

(transitive) To calender; to press (paper, etc.) between rollers to make it glossy.

#### Cylinder

A solid body which may be generated by the rotation of a parallelogram round one its sides; or a body of rollerlike form, of which the longitudinal section is oblong, and the cross section is circular.

#### Cylinder

Any hollow body of cylindrical form

#### Cylinder

The revolving square prism carrying the cards in a Jacquard loom.

#### Cylinder

A cylindrical container for oxygen or compressed air

#### Cylinder

A solid bounded by a cylindrical surface and two parallel planes (the bases)

#### Cylinder

A surface generated by rotating a parallel line around a fixed line

#### Cylinder

A chamber within which piston moves

## Common Curiosities

#### Can a cylinder have vertices?

No, a standard cylinder does not have vertices on its sides.

#### What is the difference in the base shapes of cylinders and prisms?

Cylinders have circular bases, while prisms have polygonal bases.

#### What defines a cylinder?

A cylinder is defined by its circular bases and a curved surface connecting them.

#### How are the volumes of cylinders and prisms calculated?

Both volumes are calculated as the area of the base times the height, but the base shapes differ.

#### What makes a prism different from a cylinder in terms of stability?

Prisms are generally more stable due to their flat sides, unlike the potentially rolling cylinder.

#### What are the applications of prisms?

Prisms are used in optical instruments and for educational demonstrations involving light.

#### Can a prism be cylindrical?

No, prisms are defined by flat faces, while cylinders have at least one curved surface.

#### What educational concepts are cylinders used to teach?

Cylinders are used to teach calculations involving curved surfaces.

#### How does the shape of a prism affect its properties?

The polygonal base of a prism affects its volume calculation and how it interacts with light.

#### What is a key difference in the surface properties between cylinders and prisms?

Cylinders have a continuous curved surface, while prisms have separate flat surfaces.

#### How does light interaction differ with cylinders and prisms?

Light passes straight through transparent cylinders but can be refracted by prisms.

#### Are all prisms polyhedrons?

Yes, all prisms are considered polyhedrons.

#### Why might one choose a cylinder over a prism for storage?

Cylinders can be more space-efficient due to their lack of corners, which can make packing easier in some contexts.

#### Is a square prism the same as a cube?

Yes, a square prism with equal edge lengths is essentially a cube.

#### What geometric concepts are emphasized with prisms in education?

Prisms are used to teach about edges, vertices, and surface areas.

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Written by

Maham LiaqatCo-written by

Urooj ArifUrooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.