In mathematics, a total order or linear order is a partial order in which any two elements are comparable. That is, a total order is a binary relation on some set, which satisfies the following for all and in :
Reflexivity (1.) already follows from connectedness (4.), but is required explicitly by many authors nevertheless, to indicate the kinship to partial orders.
Total orders are sometimes also called simple,connex, or full orders.
A set equipped with a total order is a totally ordered set; the terms simply ordered set,linearly ordered set, and loset are also used. The term chain is sometimes defined as a synonym of totally ordered set, but refers generally to some sort of totally ordered subsets of a given partially ordered set.
An extension of a given partial order to a total order is called a linear extension of that partial order.
Strict and non-strict total ordersedit
A strict total order on a set is a strict partial order on in which any two distinct elements are comparable. That is, a strict total order is a binary relation on some set, which satisfies the following for all and in :
Asymmetry follows from transitivity and irreflexivity; moreover, irreflexivity follows from asymmetry.
For delimitation purposes, a total order as defined in the lead is sometimes called non-strict order.
For each (non-strict) total order there is an associated relation , called the strict total order associated with that can be defined in two equivalent ways:
The set of real numbers ordered by the usual "less than or equal to" (≤) or "greater than or equal to" (≥) relations is totally ordered. Hence each subset of the real numbers is totally ordered, such as the natural numbers, integers, and rational numbers. Each of these can be shown to be the unique (up to an order isomorphism) "initial example" of a totally ordered set with a certain property, (here, a total order A is initial for a property, if, whenever B has the property, there is an order isomorphism from A to a subset of B):
The natural numbers form an initial non-empty totally ordered set with no upper bound.
The integers form an initial non-empty totally ordered set with neither an upper nor a lower bound.
The rational numbers form an initial totally ordered set which is dense in the real numbers. Moreover, the reflexive reduction < is a dense order on the rational numbers.
The real numbers form an initial unbounded totally ordered set that is connected in the order topology (defined below).
Ordered fields are totally ordered by definition. They include the rational numbers and the real numbers. Every ordered field contains an ordered subfield that is isomorphic to the rational numbers. Any Dedekind-complete ordered field is isomorphic to the real numbers.
The letters of the alphabet ordered by the standard dictionary order, e.g., A < B < C etc., is a strict total order.
The term chain is sometimes defined as a synonym for a totally ordered set, but it is generally used for referring to a subset of a partially ordered set that is totally ordered for the induced order. Typically, the partially ordered set is a set of subsets of a given set that is ordered by inclusion, and the term is used for stating properties of the set of the chains. This high number of nested levels of sets explains the usefulness of the term.
A common example of the use of chain for referring to totally ordered subsets is Zorn's lemma which asserts that, if every chain in a partially ordered set X has an upper bound in X, then X contains at least one maximal element. Zorn's lemma is commonly used with X being a set of subsets; in this case, the upperbound is obtained by proving that the union of the elements of a chain in X is in X. This is the way that is generally used to prove that a vector space has Hamel bases and that a ring has maximal ideals.
In some contexts, the chains that are considered are order isomorphic to the natural numbers with their usual order or its opposite order. In this case, a chain can be identified with a monotone sequence, and is called an ascending chain or a descending chain, depending whether the sequence is increasing or decreasing.
In other contexts, only chains that are finite sets are considered. In this case, one talks of a finite chain, often shortened as a chain. In this case, the length of a chain is the number of inequalities (or set inclusions) between consecutive elements of the chain; that is, the number minus one of elements in the chain. Thus a singleton set is a chain of length zero, and an ordered pair is a chain of length one. The dimension of a space is often defined or characterized as the maximal length of chains of subspaces. For example, the dimension of a vector space is the maximal length of chains of linear subspaces, and the Krull dimension of a commutative ring is the maximal length of chains of prime ideals.
"Chain" may also be used for some totally ordered subsets of structures that are not partially ordered sets. An example is given by regular chains of polynomials. Another example is the use of "chain" as a synonym for a walk in a graph.
One may define a totally ordered set as a particular kind of lattice, namely one in which we have
A simple counting argument will verify that any non-empty finite totally ordered set (and hence any non-empty subset thereof) has a least element. Thus every finite total order is in fact a well order. Either by direct proof or by observing that every well order is order isomorphic to an ordinal one may show that every finite total order is order isomorphic to an initial segment of the natural numbers ordered by <. In other words, a total order on a set with k elements induces a bijection with the first k natural numbers. Hence it is common to index finite total orders or well orders with order type ω by natural numbers in a fashion which respects the ordering (either starting with zero or with one).
When more than one order is being used on a set one talks about the order topology induced by a particular order. For instance if N is the natural numbers, < is less than and > greater than we might refer to the order topology on N induced by < and the order topology on N induced by > (in this case they happen to be identical but will not in general).
The order topology induced by a total order may be shown to be hereditarily normal.
A totally ordered set is said to be complete if every nonempty subset that has an upper bound, has a least upper bound. For example, the set of real numbersR is complete but the set of rational numbersQ is not. In other words, the various concepts of completeness (not to be confused with being "total") do not carry over to restrictions. For example, over the real numbers a property of the relation ≤ is that every non-empty subset S of R with an upper bound in R has a least upper bound (also called supremum) in R. However, for the rational numbers this supremum is not necessarily rational, so the same property does not hold on the restriction of the relation ≤ to the rational numbers.
There are a number of results relating properties of the order topology to the completeness of X:
If the order topology on X is connected, X is complete.
X is connected under the order topology if and only if it is complete and there is no gap in X (a gap is two points a and b in X with a < b such that no c satisfies a < c < b.)
X is complete if and only if every bounded set that is closed in the order topology is compact.
Y indicates that the column's property is always true the row's term (at the very left), while ✗ indicates that the property is not guaranteed in general (it might, or might not, hold). For example, that every equivalence relation is symmetric, but not necessarily antisymmetric, is indicated by Y in the "Symmetric" column and ✗ in the "Antisymmetric" column, respectively.
All definitions tacitly require the homogeneous relation be transitive: for all if and then
A term's definition may require additional properties that are not listed in this table.
A binary relation that is antisymmetric, transitive, and reflexive (but not necessarily total) is a partial order.
There are only a few nontrivial structures that are (interdefinable as) reducts of a total order. Forgetting the orientation results in a betweenness relation. Forgetting the location of the ends results in a cyclic order. Forgetting both data results in a separation relation.
Artinian ring – ring that satisfies the descending chain condition on idealsPages displaying wikidata descriptions as a fallback
Prefix order – generalization of the notion of prefix of a string, and of the notion of a treePages displaying wikidata descriptions as a fallback – a downward total partial order
Suslin's problem – the proposition, independent of ZFC, that a nonempty unbounded complete dense total order satisfying the countable chain condition is isomorphic to the realsPages displaying wikidata descriptions as a fallback
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^Macpherson, H. Dugald (2011), "A survey of homogeneous structures", Discrete Mathematics, 311 (15): 1599–1634, doi:10.1016/j.disc.2011.01.024