An ideal is a subset of ring such that it is possible to make a quotient ring with respect to this subset. This is the most frequent use of the name ideal, but it is used in other areas of mathematics too: ideals in set theory and order theory (which are closely related), ideals in semigroups, ideals in Lie algebras.

An ideal $I$ in a ring $(R,+,\cdot)$ a subset $I\subseteq R$ such that $(I,+)$ is a subgroup of the additive group $(R,+)$ and $r\cdot x,x\cdot r\in I$ whenever $r\in R$ and $x\in I$ (i.e., $I$ is closed under multiplication by arbitrary elements).

This is the most frequent use of the name ideal, but it is used in other areas of mathematics too:

- ideals in set theory and order theory (which are closely related),
- ideals in semigroups,
- ideals in Lie algebras.