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In topology and related areas of mathematics, the set of all possible topologies on a given set forms a partially ordered set. This order relation can be used for **comparison of the topologies**.

A topology on a set may be defined as the collection of subsets which are considered to be "open". (An alternative definition is that it is the collection of subsets which are considered "closed". These two ways of defining the topology are essentially equivalent because the complement of an open set is closed and vice versa. In the following, it doesn't matter which definition is used.)

For definiteness the reader should think of a topology as the family of **open sets** of a topological space, since that is the standard meaning of the word "topology".

Let *τ*_{1} and *τ*_{2} be two topologies on a set *X* such that *τ*_{1} is contained in *τ*_{2}:

- .

That is, every element of *τ*_{1} is also an element of *τ*_{2}. Then the topology *τ*_{1} is said to be a **coarser** (**weaker** or **smaller**) **topology** than *τ*_{2}, and *τ*_{2} is said to be a **finer** (**stronger** or **larger**) **topology** than *τ*_{1}.
^{[nb 1]}

If additionally

we say *τ*_{1} is **strictly coarser** than *τ*_{2} and *τ*_{2} is **strictly finer** than *τ*_{1}.^{[1]}

The binary relation ⊆ defines a partial ordering relation on the set of all possible topologies on *X*.

The finest topology on *X* is the discrete topology; this topology makes all subsets open. The coarsest topology on *X* is the trivial topology; this topology only admits the empty set
and the whole space as open sets.

In function spaces and spaces of measures there are often a number of possible topologies. See topologies on the set of operators on a Hilbert space for some intricate relationships.

All possible polar topologies on a dual pair are finer than the weak topology and coarser than the strong topology.

The complex vector space **C**^{n} may be equipped with either its usual (Euclidean) topology, or its Zariski topology. In the latter, a subset *V* of **C**^{n} is closed if and only if it consists of all solutions to some system of polynomial equations. Since any such *V* also is a closed set in the ordinary sense, but not *vice versa*, the Zariski topology is strictly weaker than the ordinary one.

Let *τ*_{1} and *τ*_{2} be two topologies on a set *X*. Then the following statements are equivalent:

*τ*_{1}⊆*τ*_{2}- the identity map id
_{X}: (*X*,*τ*_{2}) → (*X*,*τ*_{1}) is a continuous map. - the identity map id
_{X}: (*X*,*τ*_{1}) → (*X*,*τ*_{2}) is a strongly/relatively open map.

(The identity map id_{X} is surjective and therefore it is strongly open if and only if it is relatively open.)

Two immediate corollaries of the above equivalent statements are

- A continuous map
*f*:*X*→*Y*remains continuous if the topology on*Y*becomes*coarser*or the topology on*X**finer*. - An open (resp. closed) map
*f*:*X*→*Y*remains open (resp. closed) if the topology on*Y*becomes*finer*or the topology on*X**coarser*.

One can also compare topologies using neighborhood bases. Let *τ*_{1} and *τ*_{2} be two topologies on a set *X* and let *B*_{i}(*x*) be a local base for the topology *τ*_{i} at *x* ∈ *X* for *i* = 1,2. Then *τ*_{1} ⊆ *τ*_{2} if and only if for all *x* ∈ *X*, each open set *U*_{1} in *B*_{1}(*x*) contains some open set *U*_{2} in *B*_{2}(*x*). Intuitively, this makes sense: a finer topology should have smaller neighborhoods.

The set of all topologies on a set *X* together with the partial ordering relation ⊆ forms a complete lattice that is also closed under arbitrary intersections.^{[2]} That is, any collection of topologies on *X* have a *meet* (or infimum) and a *join* (or supremum). The meet of a collection of topologies is the intersection of those topologies. The join, however, is not generally the union of those topologies (the union of two topologies need not be a topology) but rather the topology generated by the union.

Every complete lattice is also a bounded lattice, which is to say that it has a greatest and least element. In the case of topologies, the greatest element is the discrete topology and the least element is the trivial topology.

The lattice of topologies on a set is a complemented lattice; that is, given a topology on there exists a topology on such that the intersection is the trivial topology and the topology generated by the union is the discrete topology.^{[3]}^{[4]}

If the set has at least three elements, the lattice of topologies on is not modular,^{[5]} and hence not distributive either.

- Initial topology, the coarsest topology on a set to make a family of mappings from that set continuous
- Final topology, the finest topology on a set to make a family of mappings into that set continuous

**^**Munkres, James R. (2000).*Topology*(2nd ed.). Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. pp. 77–78. ISBN 0-13-181629-2.**^**Larson, Roland E.; Andima, Susan J. (1975). "The lattice of topologies: A survey".*Rocky Mountain Journal of Mathematics*.**5**(2): 177–198. doi:10.1216/RMJ-1975-5-2-177.**^**Steiner, A. K. (1966). "The lattice of topologies: Structure and complementation".*Transactions of the American Mathematical Society*.**122**(2): 379–398. doi:10.1090/S0002-9947-1966-0190893-2.**^**Van Rooij, A. C. M. (1968). "The Lattice of all Topologies is Complemented".*Canadian Journal of Mathematics*.**20**: 805–807. doi:10.4153/CJM-1968-079-9.**^**Steiner 1966, Theorem 3.1.