In mathematics, a lattice is one of the fundamental algebraic structures used in abstract algebra. It consists of a partially ordered set in which every two elements have a unique supremum (also called a least upper bound or join) and a unique infimum (also called a greatest lower bound or meet). An example is given by the natural numbers, partially ordered by divisibility, for which the unique supremum is the least common multiple and the unique infimum is the greatest common divisor.
Lattices can also be characterized as algebraic structures satisfying certain axiomatic identities. Since the two definitions are equivalent, lattice theory draws on both order theory and universal algebra. Semilattices include lattices, which in turn include Heyting and Boolean algebras. These "lattice-like" structures all admit order-theoretic as well as algebraic descriptions.
Lattices as partially ordered sets
If (L, ≤) is a partially ordered set (poset), and S⊆L is an arbitrary subset, then an element u∈L is said to be an upper bound of S if
s≤u for each s∈S. A set may have many upper bounds, or none at all. An upper bound u of S is said to be its least upper bound, or join, or supremum, if u≤x for each upper bound x of S. A set need not have a least upper bound, but it cannot have more than one. Dually, l∈L is said to be a lower bound of S if l≤s for each s∈S. A lower bound l of S is said to be its greatest lower bound, or meet, or infimum, if x≤l for each lower bound x of S. A set may have many lower bounds, or none at all, but can have at most one greatest lower bound.