Is there any difference in meaning between "die Ordnung" and "die Reihenfolge"? They both seem to mean order, but I'm not sure when to use one over the other.

  • 3
    Just a hint: you accepted an answer about an hour after posting the question (if I interpret the timestamps correctly). While your accepted answer is not completely wrong, other answers seem to be much better (for example the one pointing out all the other meanings of "Ordnung", which has 5 times the upvotes than the accepted answer). It's normally good to wait at least a day or so before accepting.
    – AnoE
    Jul 29, 2016 at 9:19
  • 1
    'Ordnung' is a general term, 'Reihenfolge' is about a 1-dimensional order, i.e. a sequence only.
    – TaW
    Jul 29, 2016 at 10:26
  • In English, "order" can mean both "not a mess" or "a sequence", corresponding to your two German words.
    – Carlos
    Jul 29, 2016 at 12:21
  • The difference between the two answers was four minutes. That's too short a time difference to immediately accept one answer over another even if the accepted answer is ultimately the better one. Better to wait a day so that "all" (or most) of the answers are in. The one after the second was only 52 minutes (less than an hour) later.
    – Tom Au
    Aug 2, 2016 at 17:59

5 Answers 5


"Reihenfolge" is used when you want to express that one thing comes after the other other in a certain way.

"Die Reihenfolge der Bearbeitung ist folgendermaßen ..." means "The order of processing is as follows ..."

"Ordnung" can be used as a synonym. Not sure if it would suit everywhere. "Die Ordnung der Bearbeitung ist folgendermaßen ..." would sound strange to me. Although I would understand what's meant.

"Ordnung" is used more generally.

Germans have it in a lot of words and expressions. "Öffentliche Ordnung" for example is the "public order".

"Alles in Ordnung? means "Everything alright?".

  • 9
    Ich würde Reihenfolge eher als 'sequence' übersetzen
    – Vogel612
    Jul 28, 2016 at 11:59
  • "Ordnung" can be used as a synonym. Not sure if it would suit everywhere. I don't see many cases where "Ordnung" is used in the same way as "Reihenfolge". Yes, sure, it can/may mean something like that, but then we would rather say "Anordnung" (which again is just not the same as "Reihenfolge", just closer). "Reihenfolge" always means a linear ordering, while Ordnung and Anordnung are more in a topological sense (unless used in the law&order, tidyness etc. senses that prevail IMO).
    – AnoE
    Jul 29, 2016 at 9:23
  • 1
    The following is not strictly applicable, but "Anordnung" is a bit more spatial and "Reihenfolge" a bit more temporal. (Not to mention that "Anordnung" can even be used as translation for "order" in the sense of "command"). Jul 29, 2016 at 17:48

Ordnung: generally order in the sense of non-chaos, tidyness, public order
also: taxonomical order (category of species), in mathematics power of a polynomial or order of an approximation

Reihenfolge: order as in a sequence or a queue; order of elements, first, second, third,..

By the way, neither of them is related to the English monastic/knightly order, which would be an (Mönchs- bzw. Ritter-) Orden (Star Wars botched the translation here with its Erste Ordnung).

An order issued by a general also is another meaning - German: Befehl

  • 3
    This should be the accepted answer. Jul 29, 2016 at 16:17

Just to add something that has not been remarked yet, mathematically, Ordnung can also be used to express the power of a polynomial.

Such as 2n^2 - 1 would be a "Polynom 2. Ordnung".

Scientifically it is commonly used to imply categorization, in general language it is usually used to imply either tidyness (of a room for example) or political stability (as in "Law and Order").


I would say that Ordnung stands for a defined system of sorting. And Reihenfolge is a defined system of counting, where a sequence of object is considered.

Intuitively I would say Reihenfolge is something one-dimensional, similar to a recursion or a simple mathematical sequence. Ordnung can be more abstract, it could mean the particular position of molecules or the state of a database.

Maybe one could argue that a Reihenfolge is one element of the set of all Ordnung, while the contrary does not hold.


Reihenfolge indicates 'following (folgen) in the row (Reihe)', whereas Ordnung indicates arranging/ arragned or organizing/ organized into an 'order.'

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