In mathematics, a **generating function** is a formal power series in one indeterminate, whose coefficients encode information about a sequence of numbers *a*_{n} that is indexed by the natural numbers. Generating functions were first introduced by Abraham de Moivre in 1730, in order to solve the general linear recurrence problem. One can generalize to formal power series in more than one indeterminate, to encode information about arrays of numbers indexed by several natural numbers.

There are various types of generating functions, including **ordinary generating functions**, **exponential generating functions**, **Lambert series**, **Bell series**, and **Dirichlet series**; definitions and examples are given below. Every sequence in principle has a generating function of each type (except that Lambert and Dirichlet series require indices to start at 1 rather than 0), but the ease with which they can be handled may differ considerably. The particular generating function, if any, that is most useful in a given context will depend upon the nature of the sequence and the details of the problem being addressed.

Generating functions are often expressed in closed form (rather than as a series), by some expression involving operations defined for formal power series. These expressions in terms of the indeterminate *x* may involve arithmetic operations, differentiation with respect to *x* and composition with (i.e., substitution into) other generating functions; since these operations are also defined for functions, the result looks like a function of *x*. Indeed, the closed form expression can often be interpreted as a function that can be evaluated at (sufficiently small) concrete values of *x*, and which has the formal power series as its Taylor series; this explains the designation "generating functions". However such interpretation is not required to be possible, because formal power series are not required to give a convergent series when a nonzero numeric value is substituted for *x*. Also, not all expressions that are meaningful as functions of *x* are meaningful as expressions designating formal power series; negative and fractional powers of *x* are examples of this.

Generating functions are not functions in the formal sense of a mapping from a domain to a codomain; the name is merely traditional, and they are sometimes more correctly called **generating series**.

Read more about Generating Function: Definitions, Ordinary Generating Functions, Examples, Applications, Other Generating Functions, Similar Concepts

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