Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 163-198

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

A computational and combinatorial exposé of plethystic calculus

  • Nicholas A. LoehrAffiliated withVirginia Tech Email author 
  • , Jeffrey B. RemmelAffiliated withUniversity of California, San Diego


In recent years, plethystic calculus has emerged as a powerful technical tool for studying symmetric polynomials. In particular, some striking recent advances in the theory of Macdonald polynomials have relied heavily on plethystic computations. The main purpose of this article is to give a detailed explanation of a method for finding combinatorial interpretations of many commonly occurring plethystic expressions, which utilizes expansions in terms of quasisymmetric functions. To aid newcomers to plethysm, we also provide a self-contained exposition of the fundamental computational rules underlying plethystic calculus. Although these rules are well-known, their proofs can be difficult to extract from the literature. Our treatment emphasizes concrete calculations and the central role played by evaluation homomorphisms arising from the universal mapping property for polynomial rings.


Plethysm Symmetric functions Quasisymmetric functions LLT polynomials Macdonald polynomials