CSS Cascading

Processing Values

One of the fundamental design principles of CSS is cascading, which allows several style sheets to influence the presentation of a document. When different declarations try to set a value for the same element/property combination, the conflicts must somehow be resolved.

The opposite problem arises when no declarations try to set a the value for an element/property combination. In this case, a value is be found by way of inheritance or by looking at the property’s initial value.

The cascading and defaulting process takes a set of declarations as input, and outputs a specified value for each property on each element.



The cascade takes an unordered list of declared values for a given property on a given element, sorts them by their declaration’s precedence as determined below, and outputs a single cascaded value.

Origin and Importance

See here


*               /* a=0 b=0 c=0 */
LI              /* a=0 b=0 c=1 */
UL LI           /* a=0 b=0 c=2 */
UL OL+LI        /* a=0 b=0 c=3 */
H1 + *[REL=up]  /* a=0 b=1 c=1 */
UL OL LI.red    /* a=0 b=1 c=3 */
LI.red.level    /* a=0 b=2 c=1 */
#x34y           /* a=1 b=0 c=0 */


Order of Appearance

The last declaration in document order wins.

the @import rule

If an @import rule refers to a valid stylesheet, user agents must treat the contents of the stylesheet as if they were written in place of the @import rule.

Any @import rules must precede all other at-rules and style rules in a style sheet (besides @charset, which must be the first thing in the style sheet if it exists), or else the @import rule is invalid.

the !important annotation


Initial Values

Each property has an initial value, defined in the property’s definition table. If the property is not an inherited property, and the cascade does not result in a value, then the specified value of the property is its initial value.



Inheritance propagates property values from parent elements to their children.

The inherited value of a property on an element is the computed value of the property on the element’s parent element.


More info