In geometry a vertex is a point defining the corners of polygons or intersections of lines. A triangle for example is defined by 3 vertices with lines between them. In 3D-graphical APIs like OpenGL and Direct3D a vertex is a data structure containing information about the positions, normals, ...

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What is the purpose of a Direct3D vertex layout?

This tutorial (msdn) gives a description of a vertex layout. This is an example of a input layout: D3D11_INPUT_ELEMENT_DESC layout[] = { { "POSITION", 0, DXGI_FORMAT_R32G32B32_FLOAT, 0, 0, ...