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Title: Superset  
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Subject: Outline of logic
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"Superset" redirects here. For supersets in strength training, see Strength training#Combined sets.

In mathematics, especially in set theory, a set A is a subset of a set B, or equivalently B is a superset of A, if A is "contained" inside B, that is, all elements of A are also elements of B. A and B may coincide. The relationship of one set being a subset of another is called inclusion or sometimes containment.

The subset relation defines a partial order on sets.

The algebra of subsets forms a Boolean algebra in which the subset relation is called inclusion.


If A and B are sets and every element of A is also an element of B, then:

  • A is a subset of (or is included in) B, denoted by A \subseteq B,
or equivalently
  • B is a superset of (or includes) A, denoted by B \supseteq A.

If A is a subset of B, but A is not equal to B (i.e. there exists at least one element of B which is not an element of A), then

  • A is also a proper (or strict) subset of B; this is written as A\subsetneq B.
or equivalently
  • B is a proper superset of A; this is written as B\supsetneq A.

For any set S, the inclusion relation ⊆ is a partial order on the set \mathcal{P}(S) of all subsets of S (the power set of S).

The symbols ⊂ and ⊃

Some authors[1]:p.6 use the symbols ⊂ and ⊃ to indicate "subset" and "superset" respectively, instead of the symbols ⊆ and ⊇, but with the same meaning. So for example, for these authors, it is true of every set A that A ⊂ A.

Other authors[2] prefer to use the symbols ⊂ and ⊃ to indicate proper subset and superset, respectively, in place of ⊊ and ⊋. This usage makes ⊆ and ⊂ analogous to the inequality symbols ≤ and <. For example, if x ≤ y then x may be equal to y, or maybe not, but if x < y, then x definitely does not equal y, and is strictly less than y. Similarly, using the "⊂ means proper subset" convention, if A ⊆ B, then A may or may not be equal to B, but if A ⊂ B, then A is definitely not equal to B.


  • The set {1, 2} is a proper subset of {1, 2, 3}.
  • Any set is a subset of itself, but not a proper subset.
  • The empty set { }, denoted by ∅, is also a subset of any given set X. It is also always a proper subset of any set except itself.
  • The set {x: x is a prime number greater than 10} is a proper subset of {x: x is an odd number greater than 10}
  • The set of natural numbers is a proper subset of the set of rational numbers, and the set of points in a line segment is a proper subset of the set of points in a line. These are examples in which both the part and the whole are infinite, and the part has the same cardinality (number of elements) as the whole; such cases can tax one's intuition.

Other properties of inclusion

Inclusion is the canonical partial order in the sense that every partially ordered set (X, \preceq) is isomorphic to some collection of sets ordered by inclusion. The ordinal numbers are a simple example—if each ordinal n is identified with the set [n] of all ordinals less than or equal to n, then ab if and only if [a] ⊆ [b].

For the power set \mathcal{P}(S) of a set S, the inclusion partial order is (up to an order isomorphism) the Cartesian product of k = |S| (the cardinality of S) copies of the partial order on {0,1} for which 0 < 1. This can be illustrated by enumerating S = {s1, s2, …, sk} and associating with each subset TS (which is to say with each element of 2S) the k-tuple from {0,1}k of which the ith coordinate is 1 if and only if si is a member of T.

See also


External links

  • MathWorld.

Template:Set theory

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