# #571 – Covariance in Programming Languages

April 27, 2012 Leave a comment

In programming languages, the idea of covariance has to do with whether the ordering of a set of elements is preserved after calling some function that transforms each element.

Consider a set of elements and a function **F** that accepts as input a member of the set and returns a member of the set. I.e. **X’ = F(X)**, where both **X** and **X’** are members of the set.

We describe a function as covariant if *preserves the ordering of elements of the set passed to it*. If we have two members of our set, **X** and **Y**, and **X** <= **Y, **then the function **F** is covariant if **F(X) <= F(Y)**.

For example, the function **F(X)** = **2X** is covariant with respect to the set of integers. If **X** **<=** **Y**, then **2X <= 2Y**, for any **X** and **Y** integer values that you pick.