Descending order means a group of numbers, dates, words, etc., arranged from largest to smallest. “Descending” means “going down.”

Descending order meaning: examples

It can be hard to understand the meaning of descending order without a few examples. So we’ve included some below, including some word problems so that it makes a bit more sense.


There are six children in Mrs. Smith’s class. Therefore, she needs to arrange their test results in descending order.

The test results are 10, 7, 13, 8, 15, and 12.

In descending order, the test results are 15, 13, 12, 10, 8, and 7.

15 is the highest and most significant test result, so it goes on the left. 7 is the lowest test result and the smallest number, so it goes on the right. The other numbers are arranged between the most significant and most minor numbers.


Four friends emptied their pockets and counted how much money each had.

Here are the amounts of money: £3.15, £1.50, £6.72, 87p.

In descending order, the amounts of money are £6.72, £3.15, £1.50, and 87p.

The most significant amounts of money are greater than £1, while the smallest part is less than £1; this helps to determine which number should go first in the list when arranged in descending order and which should go last.


Words arranged in descending order go from Z to A, which is in reverse alphabetical order. Z goes on the left, while A goes on the right.

For example, here is a jumbled-up shopping list: bread, milk, honey, cereal, and toothpaste.

In descending order (from Z to A), the list reads toothpaste, milk, honey, cereal, and bread.

Toothpaste comes closest to the end of the alphabet, while bread comes closest to the beginning of the alphabet.

What is ascending order?

Ascending order is the opposite of descending order. “Ascending” means “going up.”

When numbers are arranged in ascending order, they go from smallest to largest. When words are arranged in ascending order, that is the same as alphabetical order – from A to Z.

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