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Upper and lower bounds

In mathematics, especially in order theory, an upper bound of a subset S of


some partially ordered set (P, ≤) is an element of P which isgreater than or equal
to every element of S. The term lower bound is defined dually as an element of P which
is lesser than or equal to every element of S. A set with an upper bound is said to
be bounded from above by that bound, a set with a lower bound is said to bebounded
from below by that bound.

Properties
A subset S of a partially ordered set P may fail to have any bounds or may have many
different upper and lower bounds. By transitivity, any element greater than or equal to an
upper bound of S is again an upper bound of S, and any element lesser than or equal to
any lower bound of S is again a lower bound of S. This leads to the consideration
of least upper bounds: (or suprema) and greatest lower bounds (or infima).

The bounds of a subset S of a partially ordered set P may or may not be elements
of S itself. If S contains an upper bound then that upper bound is unique and is called
the greatest element of S. The greatest element of S (if it exists) is also the least upper
bound of S. A special situation does occur when a subset is equal to the set of lower
bounds of its own set of upper bounds. This observation leads to the definition
of Dedekind cuts.

The empty subset Φ of a partially ordered set P is conventionally considered to be both


bounded from above and bounded from below with every element of P being both an
upper and lower bound of Φ.

Supremum
In mathematics, given a subset S of a partially ordered set T, the supremum (sup) of S,
if it exists, is the least element of T that is greater than or equal to each element of S.
Consequently, the supremum is also referred to as the least upper bound (lub or LUB).
If the supremum exists, it may or may not belong to S. If the supremum exists, it is
unique.

Suprema are often considered for subsets of real numbers, rational numbers, or any
other well-known mathematical structure for which it is immediately clear what it means
for an element to be "greater-than-or-equal-to" another element. The definition
generalizes easily to the more abstract setting of order theory, where one considers
arbitrary partially ordered sets.

The concept of supremum is not the same as the concepts of minimal upper
bound, maximal element, or greatest element. The supremum is in a precise
sense dual to the concept of an infimum.

Least-upper-bound property
Main article: Least-upper-bound property

The least-upper-bound property is an example of the aforementioned completeness


properties which is typical for the set of real numbers. This property is sometimes
called Dedekind completeness.

If an ordered set S has the property that every nonempty subset of S having an upper
bound also has a least upper bound, then S is said to have the least-upper-bound
property. As noted above, the set R of all real numbers has the least-upper-bound
property. Similarly, the set Z of integers has the least-upper-bound property; if S is a
nonempty subset of Z and there is some number n such that every element s of S is less
than or equal to n, then there is a least upper bound u for S, an integer that is an upper
bound for S and is less than or equal to every other upper bound for S. A well-
ordered set also has the least-upper-bound property, and the empty subset has also a
least upper bound: the minimum of the whole set.

An example of a set that lacks the least-upper-bound property is Q, the set of rational
numbers. Let S be the set of all rational numbers qsuch that q2 < 2. Then S has an upper
bound (1000, for example, or 6) but no least upper bound in Q. For suppose p ∈ Q is an
upper bound for S, so p2 > 2. Then q = (2p+2)/(p + 2) is also an upper bound for S,
and q < p. (To see this, note that q = p − (p2 − 2)/(p + 2), and that p2 − 2 is positive.)
Another example is the Hyperreals; there is no least upper bound of the set of positive
infinitesimals.

There is a corresponding 'greatest-lower-bound property'; an ordered set possesses the


greatest-lower-bound property if and only if it also possesses the least-upper-bound
property; the least-upper-bound of the set of lower bounds of a set is the greatest-lower-
bound, and the greatest-lower-bound of the set of upper bounds of a set is the least-
upper-bound of the set.

If in a partially ordered set P every bounded subset has a supremum, this applies also,
for any set X, in the function space containing all functions from X to P, where f ≤ g if and
only if f(x) ≤ g(x) for all x in X. For example, it applies for real functions, and, since these
can be considered special cases of functions, for real n-tuples and sequences of real
numbers.

Infimum
In mathematics, the infimum (plural infima) of a subset S of some partially ordered
set T is the greatest element of T that is less than or equal to all elements of S.
Consequently the term greatest lower bound (also abbreviated as glb or GLB) is also
commonly used. Infima of real numbers are a common special case that is especially
important in analysis. However, the general definition remains valid in the more abstract
setting of order theory where arbitrary partially ordered sets are considered.

The infimum is in a precise sense dual to the concept of a supremum.

Infima of real numbers


In analysis the infimum or greatest lower bound of a subset S of real numbers is denoted
by inf(S) and is defined to be the biggest real number that is smaller than or equal to
every number in S. If no such number exists (because S is not bounded below), then we
define inf(S) = −∞. If S is empty, we define inf(S) = ∞ (see extended real number line).

An important property of the real numbers is that every set of real numbers has an
infimum (any bounded nonempty subset of the real numbers has an infimum in the non-
extended real numbers).

Examples:

If a set has a smallest element, as in the first example, then the smallest element is the
infimum for the set. (If the infimum is contained in the set, then it is also known as
the minimum). As the last three examples show, the infimum of a set does not have to
belong to the set.

The notions of infimum and supremum are dual in the sense that

Where,
.
Infima in partially ordered sets

The definition of infima easily generalizes to subsets of arbitrary partially ordered


sets and as such plays a vital role in order theory. In this context, especially in lattice
theory, greatest lower bounds are also called meets.

Formally, the infimum of a subset S of a partially ordered set (P, ≤) is an


element a of P such that

1. a ≤ x for all x in S, (a is a lower bound) and


2. for all y in P, if for all x in S, y ≤ x,
then y ≤ a (a larger than any other lower bound).

Any element with these properties is necessarily unique, but in general no such element
needs to exist. Consequently, orders for which certain infima are known to exist become
especially interesting. More information on the various classes of partially ordered sets
that arise from such considerations are found in the article on completeness properties.

The dual concept of infimum is given by the notion of a supremum or least upper bound.
By the duality principle of order theory, every statement about suprema is thus readily
transformed into a statement about infima. For this reason, all further results, details,
and examples can be taken from the article on suprema.