Definition of Endian

Endian refers to the order in which bytes are stored or transmitted in a digital system, specifically when representing multi-byte data types such as integers or memory addresses. The two main types are big-endian and little-endian. Big-endian systems store the most significant byte first, while little-endian systems store the least significant byte first.


The phonetics of the keyword “Endian” can be represented as:/ˈɛndiən/

Key Takeaways

  1. Endian refers to the order in which bytes are stored in a computer memory, representing data types larger than one byte, such as integers and floating points.
  2. There are two main types of Endian: Big-Endian, where the most significant byte comes first, and Little-Endian, where the least significant byte comes first.
  3. Different computer architectures use different Endian conventions, which can lead to compatibility issues when transferring data between systems. Converting between the two forms may be necessary for consistent data interpretation.

Importance of Endian

Endian refers to the order in which a computer system or network architecture organizes data, particularly when storing or transmitting multi-byte values like integers or addresses.

It is important because different computing systems utilize different endian schemes, namely big-endian and little-endian, leading to potential problems when transferring data between different systems.

Understanding endianness is crucial when working with data communication, file formats, and programming across multiple platforms, as it ensures the correct interpretation and representation of values in different systems.

By considering endianness, developers and engineers can implement appropriate data conversion mechanisms to maintain data consistency and compatibility across heterogeneous computing environments.


Endian refers to the order in which a sequence of bytes is stored in computer memory, particularly when it comes to how data is represented and read in numeral systems. It plays a crucial role in facilitating efficient data communication and processing between computers and devices with different hardware architectures or operating systems.

Two common types of endianness are big-endian and little-endian; each has its own unique way of storing and representing multi-byte data types, such as integers or floating-point numbers. Big-endian systems store numerical data in memory with the most significant byte (MSB) placed in the lowest memory address, whereas little-endian systems store the least significant byte (LSB) in the lowest address.

Endian compatibility is needed when transferring data between systems, as the data must be interpreted consistently across different architectures. As a result, endianness is vital for ensuring that data is correctly decoded and interpreted when systems communicate or exchange information through binary-encoded files, network communication protocols, or within data storage systems.

By addressing this essential aspect of data representation, endianness helps maintain the accuracy, consistency, and coherence of information transfer across diverse computing environments.

Examples of Endian

Endian, often referred to as “endianess,” is a term describing the convention for the byte order of binary data representations in computer memory. Here are three real-world examples of how endianness is used or encountered in technology:

Network protocols (Big-Endian): Many network protocols, such as IPv4 and TCP/IP, use big-endian representation for binary data (also known as “network byte order”). In a big-endian convention, the most significant byte (MSB) is stored first (at the lowest address). For example, when transmitting a 32-bit integer like 0x12345678, the sequence of transmitted bytes will be 0x12, 0x34, 0x56, and 0x

Computer hardware (Little-Endian): Many modern computer architectures, including Intel x86 and ARM-based processors, use little-endian byte order storage for loading and storing binary data in memory. In little-endian byte order, the least significant byte (LSB) is stored first (at the lowest address). For instance, when a 32-bit integer like 0x12345678 is stored in memory, the sequence of bytes, read from the lowest to highest memory address, will be 0x78, 0x56, 0x34, and 0x

File formats (Mixed-Endian): Some file formats, such as TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) and WAV (Waveform Audio File Format), can store binary data in either little-endian or big-endian byte order. When using these formats, software applications must perform byte-swapping operations to handle different endianness depending on the file’s content and the native byte order of the computer system.

Endian FAQ

What is Endian?

Endian is a term used to describe the byte ordering of data in a system. It refers to how the bytes are organized in memory and how they are represented when transmitted over a network. There are two primary types of Endian: Big Endian and Little Endian. These determine whether the most significant byte (MSB) or least significant byte (LSB) is stored first in memory or transmitted first over a network.

What is the difference between Big Endian and Little Endian?

Big Endian systems store the most significant byte first, while Little Endian systems store the least significant byte first. In other words, Big Endian places the most important byte in the lowest memory address, while Little Endian places it in the highest memory address. This can impact data storage, interpretation, and communication between systems if the Endian formats differ, leading to incorrect data representation.

Which Endian format is more common?

Both Little Endian and Big Endian formats are used widely, but Little Endian is more common in modern computer systems and CPUs. This is primarily due to the use of the x86 processor architecture, which employs Little Endian as its byte organization. However, some network protocols and file formats use Big Endian, such as Internet Protocol (IP) and Java.

Why does Endian matter?

Understanding the Endian format of a system is crucial for efficient data transfer and storage. When exchanging data between systems or devices with different Endian formats, it’s essential to ensure proper conversion to prevent data corruption or misinterpretation. Perceiving the Endian format is also vital in programming, as it helps to create compatible software and data structures for different system architectures.

How can one convert between Big Endian and Little Endian formats?

Endian conversion typically involves reversing the byte order of the data. This can be performed using bitwise operations, byte swapping, or specialized functions provided by programming languages or libraries. It’s important to ensure that the conversion is executed correctly and consistently, to prevent data corruption and to maintain the accuracy of the information being processed.

Related Technology Terms

  • Byte Order
  • Big Endian
  • Little Endian
  • Bi-Endian
  • Endian Conversion

Sources for More Information


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