Upper set In mathematics, an upper set (also called an upward closed set, an upset, or an isotone set in X) of a partially ordered set (X, ≤) is a subset SX with the following property: if s is in S and if x in X is larger than s (i.e. if sx), then x is in S. In words, this means that any x element of X that is ≥ to some element of S is necessarily also an element of S. The term lower set (also called a downward closed set, down set, decreasing set, initial segment, or semi-ideal) is defined similarly as being a subset S of X with the property that any element x of X that is ≤ to some element of S is necessarily also an element of S.

The terms order ideal or ideal are sometimes used as synonyms for lower set. This choice of terminology fails to reflect the notion of an ideal of a lattice because a lower set of a lattice is not necessarily a sublattice.

The upper and lower closures, when viewed as function from the power set of X to itself, are examples of closure operators since they satisfy all of the Kuratowski closure axioms. As a result, the upper closure of a set is equal to the intersection of all upper sets containing it, and similarly for lower sets. Indeed, this is a general phenomenon of closure operators. For example, the topological closure of a set is the intersection of all closed sets containing it; the span of a set of vectors is the intersection of all subspaces containing it; the subgroup generated by a subset of a group is the intersection of all subgroups containing it; the ideal generated by a subset of a ring is the intersection of all ideals containing it; and so on.

An ordinal number is usually identified with the set of all smaller ordinal numbers. Thus each ordinal number forms a lower set in the class of all ordinal numbers, which are totally ordered by set inclusion.