In topology and related areas of mathematics, the set of all possible topologies on a given set forms a partially ordered set. This order relation can be used for **comparison of the topologies**.

A topology on a set may be defined as the collection of subsets which are considered to be "open". An alternative definition is that it is the collection of subsets which are considered "closed". These two ways of defining the topology are essentially equivalent because the complement of an open set is closed and vice versa. In the following, it doesn't matter which definition is used.

Let τ_{1} and τ_{2} be two topologies on a set *X* such that τ_{1} is contained in τ_{2}:

- .

That is, every element of τ_{1} is also an element of τ_{2}. Then the topology τ_{1} is said to be a **coarser** (**weaker** or **smaller**) **topology** than τ_{2}, and τ_{2} is said to be a **finer** (**stronger** or **larger**) **topology** than τ_{1}.
^{[nb 1]}

If additionally

we say τ_{1} is **strictly coarser** than τ_{2} and τ_{2} is **strictly finer** than τ_{1}.^{[1]}

The binary relation ⊆ defines a partial ordering relation on the set of all possible topologies on *X*.

The finest topology on *X* is the discrete topology; this topology makes all subsets open. The coarsest topology on *X* is the trivial topology; this topology only admits the empty set
and the whole space as open sets.

In function spaces and spaces of measures there are often a number of possible topologies. See topologies on the set of operators on a Hilbert space for some intricate relationships.

All possible polar topologies on a dual pair are finer than the weak topology and coarser than the strong topology.

The complex vector space **C**^{n} may be equipped with either its usual (Euclidean) topology, or its Zariski topology. In the latter, a subset *V* of **C**^{n} is closed if and only if it consists of all solutions to some system of polynomial equations. Since any such *V* also is a closed set in the ordinary sense, but not *vice versa*, the Zariski topology is strictly weaker than the ordinary one.

Let τ_{1} and τ_{2} be two topologies on a set *X*. Then the following statements are equivalent:

- τ
_{1}⊆ τ_{2} - the identity map id
_{X}: (*X*, τ_{2}) → (*X*, τ_{1}) is a continuous map. - the identity map id
_{X}: (*X*, τ_{1}) → (*X*, τ_{2}) is an open map

Two immediate corollaries of this statement are

- A continuous map
*f*:*X*→*Y*remains continuous if the topology on*Y*becomes*coarser*or the topology on*X**finer*. - An open (resp. closed) map
*f*:*X*→*Y*remains open (resp. closed) if the topology on*Y*becomes*finer*or the topology on*X**coarser*.

One can also compare topologies using neighborhood bases. Let τ_{1} and τ_{2} be two topologies on a set *X* and let *B*_{i}(*x*) be a local base for the topology τ_{i} at *x* ∈ *X* for *i* = 1,2. Then τ_{1} ⊆ τ_{2} if and only if for all *x* ∈ *X*, each open set *U*_{1} in *B*_{1}(*x*) contains some open set *U*_{2} in *B*_{2}(*x*). Intuitively, this makes sense: a finer topology should have smaller neighborhoods.

The set of all topologies on a set *X* together with the partial ordering relation ⊆ forms a complete lattice that is also closed under arbitrary intersections. That is, any collection of topologies on *X* have a *meet* (or infimum) and a *join* (or supremum). The meet of a collection of topologies is the intersection of those topologies. The join, however, is not generally the union of those topologies (the union of two topologies need not be a topology) but rather the topology generated by the union.

Every complete lattice is also a bounded lattice, which is to say that it has a greatest and least element. In the case of topologies, the greatest element is the discrete topology and the least element is the trivial topology.