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Pyramids vs. Prisms: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Pyramids are three-dimensional shapes with a polygon base and triangular faces converging to a point, while prisms are solid figures with two identical, parallel polygonal bases and rectangular faces.
Pyramids vs. Prisms

Key Differences

"Pyramids" have a base that is a polygon (like a square or triangle) and triangular faces that converge at a single point, known as the apex. "Prisms", in contrast, consist of two parallel and congruent polygonal bases connected by rectangular faces.
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The number of faces on a pyramid depends on the base shape (e.g., a square base leads to five faces), while a prism always has faces equal to the sides of the base plus two.
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Pyramids are often associated with ancient structures, like those in Egypt, representing a single point of convergence. Prisms, however, are commonly referenced in optics and physics for their ability to refract light.
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In volume calculation, a pyramid's volume is one-third the base area times the height, whereas a prism's volume is the base area times the height, indicating a difference in spatial capacity.
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Architecturally, pyramids symbolize stability and are used in monuments. Prisms are used in modern design for their uniformity and are significant in light experiments.
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Comparison Chart

Base Shape

Polygonal base
Two parallel, identical polygonal bases
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Faces

Triangular faces, number based on base
Rectangular faces, always equal to sides of base plus two
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Convergence

Faces converge at an apex
Faces do not converge
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Common Uses

Ancient architecture, symbolic structures
Optics, physics, and modern architecture
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Pyramids and Prisms Definitions

Pyramids

Mathematical Model
We built a pyramid in math class to understand 3D shapes.
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Prisms

Geometric Body
A prism with a triangular base is called a triangular prism.
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Pyramids

Architectural Element
The glass pyramid serves as the entrance to the museum.
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Prisms

3D Shape
In geometry, we learned how to calculate the volume of a prism.
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Pyramids

Ancient Structures
The Pyramids of Giza are among the most famous in the world.
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Prisms

Physics Concept
The prism dispersed the white light into a spectrum of colors.
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Pyramids

Symbolic Form
In many cultures, pyramids symbolize strength and durability.
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Prisms

Optical Tool
Prisms are used in periscopes to bend light.
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Pyramids

A solid figure with a polygonal base and triangular faces that meet at a common point.
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Prisms

Architectural Feature
The building's prism-like design creates interesting light patterns.
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Pyramids

Something shaped like this polyhedron.
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Prisms

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.
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Pyramids

A massive monument of ancient Egypt having a rectangular base and four triangular faces culminating in a single apex, built over or around a crypt or tomb.
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Prisms

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.
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Pyramids

Any of various similar constructions, especially a four-sided Mesoamerican temple having stepped sides and a flat top surmounted by chambers.
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Prisms

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

The transactions involved in pyramiding stock.
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Prisms

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

(Anatomy) A structure or part suggestive of a pyramid in shape.
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Prisms

A medium that misrepresents whatever is seen through it.
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Pyramids

To place or build in the shape of a pyramid.
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Prisms

Plural of prism
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Pyramids

To build (an argument or thesis, for example) progressively from a basic general premise.
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Pyramids

To speculate in (stock) by making a series of buying and selling transactions in which paper profits are used as margin for buying more stock.
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Pyramids

To assume the shape of a pyramid.
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Pyramids

To increase rapidly and on a widening base.
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Pyramids

To pyramid stocks.
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Pyramids

Plural of pyramid
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Pyramids

The game of pyramid pool.
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Pyramids

Infl of pyramid
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Pyramids

Geometric Shape
The pyramid has a square base and four triangular sides.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What is a pyramid?

A pyramid is a three-dimensional geometric shape with a polygonal base and triangular faces that converge at a single point called the apex.
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What is a prism?

A prism is a polyhedron with two parallel, congruent faces called bases and additional faces that are parallelograms.
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Can a pyramid have a circular base?

No, a pyramid cannot have a circular base; those shapes are called cones.
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How many sides does a pyramid have?

The number of sides of a pyramid depends on the base; for example, a square pyramid has five sides, including its base.
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What is a regular pyramid?

A regular pyramid has a regular polygon base and congruent isosceles triangles as its sides.
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What is the difference in the bases of pyramids and prisms?

Pyramids have a single polygonal base, while prisms have two parallel, congruent polygonal bases.
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Are all sides of a prism flat?

Yes, all faces of a prism, including the bases and sides, are flat surfaces.
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Are the lateral faces of a rectangular prism rectangles?

Yes, in a rectangular prism, the lateral faces are rectangles.
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How many sides does a prism have?

A prism has at least five sides, with three or more on the lateral surfaces and two as bases.
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How do you calculate the volume of a prism?

The volume of a prism is the base area multiplied by its height.
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Can a prism have triangles as its bases?

Yes, a triangular prism has triangles as its bases.
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Can a prism have a circular base?

No, a prism cannot have a circular base; such shapes are cylinders.
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What is a regular prism?

A regular prism is a prism where the bases are regular polygons, and the sides are rectangles.
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Can the faces of a pyramid be other shapes besides triangles?

No, the faces of a pyramid, other than its base, are always triangular.
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What is the apex of a pyramid?

The apex is the topmost point where all the triangular faces of a pyramid meet.
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Can pyramids be classified by their base shape?

Yes, pyramids are often classified by the shape of their base, such as triangular, square, or hexagonal pyramids.
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Do all prisms have the same cross-section along their length?

Yes, in a prism, the cross-section is constant along its length.
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What is the difference in the top shapes of pyramids and prisms?

Pyramids taper to a single point at the top, while prisms have a flat top parallel to the base.
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Is the Great Pyramid of Giza a regular pyramid?

The Great Pyramid of Giza is a square pyramid, but it is not a regular pyramid because its base is a square but its sides are not congruent isosceles triangles.
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Nov 15, 2023

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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