What Does Little-Endian Mean?

The little-endian convention is a type of addressing that refers to the order of data stored in memory. In this convention, the least significant bit (or "littlest" end) is first stored at address 0, and subsequent bits are stored incrementally.


Little-endian is the opposite of big-endian, which stores the most significant bit first. Because they are opposites, it is difficult to integrate two systems that use different endian conventions.

Techopedia Explains Little-Endian

Memory addresses may be viewed incrementally from left to right, with the leftmost address being the first address: address 0. In a little-endian system, the least significant bit is stored in address 0, and subsequent data is stored to the right in incremental address locations. Thus, data or bits stay within the same address where they are stored – even when new data is added.

For example, if data "0 1 2 3 4, 0" is stored in address 0, and each digit represents an incremental address, then 4 would be stored at address 4. This format is more logical for humans because we read, write and do most things from the left. The opposite is true for big-endian. Because the most significant bit should always be stored in address 0, all previous stored data that is of lesser significance is moved to the right to a higher address location.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…