The notion defined above is sometimes called an upward directed set. A downward directed set is defined analogously, meaning that every pair of elements is bounded below. Some authors (and this article) assume that a directed set is directed upward, unless otherwise stated. Be aware that other authors call a set directed if and only if it is directed both upward and downward.
Directed sets are a generalization of nonempty totally ordered sets. That is, all totally ordered sets are directed sets (contrast partially ordered sets, which need not be directed). Join semilattices (which are partially ordered sets) are directed sets as well, but not conversely. Likewise, lattices are directed sets both upward and downward.
In topology, directed sets are used to define nets, which generalize sequences and unite the various notions of limit used in analysis. Directed sets also give rise to direct limits in abstract algebra and (more generally) category theory.
A directed subset of a poset is not required to be downward closed; a subset of a poset is directed if and only if its downward closure is an ideal. While the definition of a directed set is for an "upward-directed" set (every pair of elements has an upper bound), it is also possible to define a downward-directed set in which every pair of elements has a common lower bound. A subset of a poset is downward-directed if and only if its upper closure is a filter.
Directed subsets are used in domain theory, which studies directed-complete partial orders. These are posets in which every upward-directed set is required to have a least upper bound. In this context, directed subsets again provide a generalization of convergent sequences.[further explanation needed]