From what I can tell, it seems that particles have two kinds of mass, the mass inherent in a fundamental particle itself, or for composite particles, additional mass associated with the Higgs field. Is that distinction correct?

If so,is the mass of associated with with the Higgs field equal to the mass of the energy required to hold the particles together?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Most of the mass is not due to the higgs field, as far as I know, it is due to the strong force carriers, the gluons, and the non valence quarks, that is, the "virtual particles" within the particles. Open to correction on this though. $\endgroup$
    – user81619
    May 28, 2015 at 23:21
  • $\begingroup$ Your comment appears to conflict with the comment of @anna v. It would be good to get it resolved. $\endgroup$ May 29, 2015 at 6:12
  • $\begingroup$ Hi John, I have asked Anna and will delete the comment if required. One question for you now. When you say composite particles above, do you mean, say a proton made from three quarks, or do you mean a group of nucleons in, for example, the centre of a carbon atom? $\endgroup$
    – user81619
    May 29, 2015 at 13:38

1 Answer 1


The Higgs field is a fundamental field in the standard model of particles. The particles which acquire mass due to the Higgs field are shown in the table.


The Standard Model of elementary particles (more schematic depiction), with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.

Each particle in the table is described by a special relativity four vector, whose "length" is the mass in the table. All other particles, protons ,neutrons, atoms, molecules are a hierarchical addition of four vectors which will have an invariant mass, according to the rules of special relativity.

The masses induced by the Higgs field are very small as seen in the table ( except for the Higgs Boson itself, the Z and the W). The proton and neutron acquire their much larger mass by the addition of the innumerable four vectors of the quarks, antiquarks and gluons that it contains. If one added just the mass of the constituents the mass is a small fraction of the measured nucleon mass.

Thus most of the mass we measure for the proton is not from the Higgs field, but from the special relativity dynamics.

  • $\begingroup$ Your answer, as is common with many answers, causes me to ask more questions! (It will come in two parts because of comment length limitations.) 1. Are you saying that the Higgs field causes all the particles in the first three columns to have the masses that are indicated in the table? 2. I read the reference on "four vectors" that you indicated and of the several that were mentioned, I couldn't identify the type of four vector that was applicable. I assume it's not as simple as the invariant mass augmented by three vectors of motion in space. Or is it? $\endgroup$ May 29, 2015 at 5:55
  • $\begingroup$ 3. Is the "invariant mass" the same as the "rest mass" of a particle? 4. I believe I understand that the proton and neutron have larger masses because of the masses of the particles it contains, but is there an additional mass related to the energy required to hold the particle together, or is that simply the mass of the gluons? $\endgroup$ May 29, 2015 at 6:04
  • $\begingroup$ 1) yes . 2)(The energy momentum) four vector gives the invariant mass of a system of particles.3) In the case of a particle in the table, it is is named rest mass. with combinations of particles the invariant mass is the rest mass of the system.4) not the masses, the four vector addition of the four vectors of all within the bag, quarks, antiquarks, gluons. look at the pictures in the link. profmattstrassler.com/articles-and-posts/… . the link is also informative $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    May 29, 2015 at 6:10
  • $\begingroup$ @annav I defer to you on this, because popsci books (my source) are just that, popular science. Could you please tell me if there is any merit in my comment at the bottom of the OP. Obviously I will delete it if it's incorrect. That would clear things up for both John and myself. Thank you very much. $\endgroup$
    – user81619
    May 29, 2015 at 13:28
  • $\begingroup$ you ask "If so,is the mass of associated with with the Higgs field equal to the mass of the energy required to hold the particles together?" No. The model is thus: at very high( cosmological) energies there is complete symmetry in SU(3)xSU(2)xU(1), which means all the particles in the table are massless. But that zero mass is in a metastable state. see the figure here en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_mechanism#Abelian_Higgs_mechanism . As the energy falls ( the expansion of the universe) the symmetry is broken and the particles in the table acquire mass. only those. $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    May 29, 2015 at 13:44

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