A *total order* or *linear order* or *chain order* on a set is a way of ordering its elements to say that some elements precede others, with the understanding that any two elements can be compared one way or the other.

Given a set $S$, a **total order** or **linear order** or **chain order** on $S$ is a (binary) relation $\leq$ with the following properties:

- reflexivity: for any element $x$ of $S$, $x \leq x$;
- transitivity: whenever $x \leq y \leq z$, then $x \leq z$;
- antisymmetry: whenever $x \leq y \leq x$, then $x = y$;
- totality: for any $x$ and $y$ in $S$, $x \leq y$ or $y \leq x$.

A **totally ordered set** or **toset** or **linearly ordered set** or **loset** is a set equipped with a total order/linear order.

A **totally ordered set** or **toset** or **linearly ordered set** or **loset** is a set $S$ equipped with a commutative and idempotent semigroup $\min:S \times S \to S$ such that for all $a \in S$ and $b \in S$, $\min(a, b) = a$ or $\min(a, b) = b$.

The category of finite nonempty totally ordered sets and order-preserving maps is called $\Delta$, the simplex category.

The category of *all* finite totally ordered sets and order-preserving maps is called $\Delta_a$, the **augmented** simplex category.

Due to the totality of the order relation $\leq$, every pair of elements $a$ and $b$ has a join and meet, such that $a \wedge b = a$ and $a \vee b = b$, or $a \wedge b = b$ and $a \vee b = a$. This means that meets distribute over joins and joins distribute over meets, and additionally that both operations are associative, commutative, and idempotent, and so every total order is a pseudolattice, and every bounded total order is a lattice.

A strict total order is much like a total order, except that it is based on an irreflexive relation $\lt$.

Using excluded middle, one can move between strict total orders and total orders using negation; that is, the negation of a total order is a strict total order and vice versa. Actually one usually swaps the order too, as follows:

- $x \leq y$ iff $y \nless x$;
- $x \lt y$ iff $y \nleq x$.

One often sees $x \lt y$ defined as $x \le y$ but $x \ne y$; this is equivalent, but doesn't show the duality explicitly. Similarly, one often sees $x \leq y$ defined as $x \lt y$ or $x = y$; this is not even equivalent constructively, although it is classically.

In classical mathematics, the distinction between total orders and strict total orders is merely a terminological technicality, which is not always observed; more precisely, there is a natural bijection between the set of total orders on a given set $S$ and the set of strict total orders on $S$, and one distinguishes them by their notation. In constructive mathematics, however, they are irreducibly different.

For more, including why strict total orders are more often useful in constructive mathematics, see strict total order.

There is a classifying topos for inhabited linear orders. It is given by the category of cosimplicial sets, hence by the presheaf topos over the opposite category of the simplicial category.

For more see at *classifying topos* the section *For (inhabited) linear orders*.

Total orders are defined in the section of chapter 3 titled “Chains”:

- Eric Schechter,
*Handbook of Analysis and its Foundations*, Academic Press (1996), (ISBN 0-12-622760-8, doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-622760-4.X5000-6)

Last revised on August 9, 2024 at 15:30:39. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.