In mathematics, an ordered field is a field (F,+,*) together with a total order ≤ on F that is compatible with the algebraic operations in the following sense:
  • if ab then a + cb + c
  • if 0 ≤ a and 0 ≤ b then 0 ≤ a b

It follows from these axioms that for every a, b, c, d in F:
  • Either −a ≤ 0 ≤ a or a ≤ 0 ≤ −a.
  • We are allowed to "add inequalities": If ab and cd, then a + cb + d
  • We are allowed to "multiply inequalities with positive elements": If ab and 0 ≤ c, then acbc.
  • Squares are non-negative: 0 ≤ a2 for all a in F; in particular 0 < 1.
  • One can deduce that 0 < 1 + 1 + ... + 1 for any number of summands; this implies that the field F has characteristic 0.

Every subfield of an ordered field is also an ordered field. The smallest subfield is isomorphic to the rationals (as for any field of characteristic 0), and the order on this rational subfield is the same as the order of the rationals themselves. If every element of an ordered field lies between two elements of its rational subfield, then the field is said to be Archimedean. For example, the real numbers form an Archimedean field, but every hyperreal field is non-Archimedean.

If F is equipped with the order topology arising from the total order ≤, then the axioms guarantee that the operations + and * are continuous.

Examples of ordered fields are:

The surreal numbers form a proper class rather than a set, but otherwise obey the axioms of an ordered field. Every ordered field can be embedded into the surreal numbers.

Finite fields cannot be turned into ordered fields, because they do not have characteristic 0. The complex numbers also cannot be turned into an ordered field, as they contain a square root of -1, which no ordered field can do. Also, the p-adic numbers cannot be ordered, since Q2 contains a square root of -7 and Qp (p > 2) contains a square root of 1-p.