Home

InertiaLogo2_08121355ca
Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to any change in its state of motion, including changes to its speed and direction. It is the tendency of objects to keep moving in a straight line at constant velocity. The principle of inertia is one of the fundamental principles of classical physics that are used to describe the motion of objects and how they are affected by applied forces. Inertia comes from the Latin word, iners, meaning idle, sluggish. Inertia is one of the primary manifestations of mass, which is a quantitative property of physical systems. Isaac Newton defined inertia as his first law in his PhilosophiƦ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which states:[1]

The vis insita, or innate force of matter, is a power of resisting by which every body, as much as in it lies, endeavours to preserve its present state, whether it be of rest or of moving uniformly forward in a straight line.

In common usage the term “inertia” may refer to an object’s “amount of resistance to change in velocity” (which is quantified by its mass), or sometimes to its momentum, depending on the context. The term “inertia” is more properly understood as shorthand for “the principle of inertia” as described by Newton in his First Law of Motion: that an object not subject to any net external force moves at a constant velocity. Thus, an object will continue moving at its current velocity until some force causes its speed or direction to change.