Quoting Merriam-Webster:

chronological: arranged in or according to the order of time

Quoting the Cambridge dictionary:

chronological: following the order in which a series of events happened

Does that mean that “chronological” can not refer to future events? E.g. would the following usage be incorrect?

I listed the concerts I'm planning to go to in chronological order.

If so, what other word/phrase could be used instead?

  • 3
    Generally speaking, "chronological order" means in the order that things did or would occur in time. It's not limited to stuff in the past.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 2, 2018 at 11:54
  • chronological future (relativity) The chronological future relative to a set of points S in a space-time M is the set of points in M which can be reached from S by future-directed timelike curves. McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E. (2003). Jun 2, 2018 at 11:59
  • M-W doesn't insist on a "past" meaning. But it is interesting that the Cambridge dictionary specifies past events (and all the examples where it is explicit, refer to the past). The OED says similarly. But this is not a restriction in general British English usage, as far as I know. So I see nothing wrong with your sentence.
    – user184130
    Jun 2, 2018 at 12:04
  • Note that partly the definitions just reflect a bias in normal speech and semantics -- it is simply more natural & idiomatic to say "the order in which they occurred", rather than "the order in which they occur", even if discussing the hypothetical future. I'm guessing the definition writers are reflecting this unconscious bias -- had there been a reason for limiting the term to past events their definitions would have been more explicit on that point.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 2, 2018 at 12:54

2 Answers 2


'Chronological' does not refer to any particular place in a time line. It only specifies that a set of events are one after another, without reference to a point in time. The Cambridge definition is unfortunate, there is no restriction of the word to past events.

'The steps in the cake recipe must be executed in chronological order in order to be successful."

You may have already looked at many instances of 'chronological' in the wild and noticed that possibly are very often used about past events. The same could be said for other time-oriented terms like 'fast' or 'frequent'.


timeline TFD

  1. a graphic representation showing the passage of time as a line
  2. a time frame during which something is scheduled to happen

chronology TFD

  1. The science that deals with the determination of dates and the sequence of events.
  2. The arrangement of events in time.

Your use:

"I listed the concerts I'm planning to go to in chronological order."

is fine. In TF Dictionary #2, there is no specificity of current or past time. Most registers do though seem to limit to present or past time.

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