Is there a single noun that indicates unambiguously (to a computational scientist, at least) "the ordering (row-major or column major) used in an array"?

For instance, the term endianness (or sometimes even the odd-sounding byte sex) refers to whether a word is stored in little-endian or big-endian order, and one single English word is enough to convey this meaning. I would not consider "the ordering of an array" clear enough by itself without the parenthetical, by contrast.

  • $\begingroup$ Are you looking for a word like _ columnwise_? From Matlab: "MATLAB stores data in a column-major (columnwise) numbering scheme, which is how Fortran stores matrices. " $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ @MauroVanzetto No. I am looking for a word with which you can fill the gap in the following sentence: "Matlab stores data columnwise, C stores them rowwise; so they have different ______". $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ "storage order"? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 15:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ memory layout? $\endgroup$
    – GoHokies
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ Several links refer to the "storage order", see ibiblio.org/pub/languages/fortran/ch2-6.html or eigen.tuxfamily.org/dox/group__TopicStorageOrders.html $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 19:48

1 Answer 1


I would suggest that a slightly modified version of @GoHokies suggestion array layout or even a more precise, but a bit wordish array memory layout should suffice and be unambiguous.

In my opinion, this term is the clearest one, describing what row-major and column-major (and possibly some other variants) is.

Google search (Apr 7, 2018, google.ca):

  • "array memory layout" - 2080 results with 100% of all first 10 results and images being to the topic
  • "array layout" - 67500 results with only 3/10 directed at different areas of science (say, "array layout methodology for VLSI circuits"). So I would say it is safe to use
  • "memory layout" results in a much larger #hits, but only 1/10 is relevant for the topic of the discussion
  • "storage order" results in more than 100000 hits; however, a lot of them lead to a different (slightly or completely) areas.

For papers:

  • This uses a term "data layout" to generalize, but talks particularly about the ways arrays are stored in memory.
  • This particularly discusses the "array layouts".

Though I doubt that any computational scientist or an average programmer would be confused by a term storage order, that is used wider.


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