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A partial differential equation (PDE) is a mathematical equation that involves two or more independent variables, an unknown function (dependent on those variables), and partial derivatives of the unknown function with respect to the independent variables.

The order of a partial differential equation is the order of the highest derivative involved. A solution (or a particular solution) to a partial differential equation is a function that solves the equation or, in other words, turns it into an identity when substituted into the equation. A solution is called general if it contains all particular solutions of the equation concerned.

The term exact solution is often used for second- and higher-order nonlinear PDEs to denote a particular solution (see also Preliminary remarks at Second-Order Partial Differential Equations).

Partial differential equations are used to mathematically formulate, and thus aid the solution of, physical and other problems involving functions of several variables, such as the propagation of heat or sound, fluid flow, elasticity, electrostatics, electrodynamics, etc.

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