Little-endian is a term created by Danny Cohen (technically, he re-purposed it from Jonathan Swift's satire, "Gulliver's Travels", where it refers to the dispute over whether to start eating a boiled egg from the big end or the little end) for the different schemes for ordering and numbering bits and bytes within larger entities.
'Little-endian' refers to machines (like the Intel x86) which number the bits and bytes from the least significant (low-order) end.
Some machines (sometimes dubbed mixed-endian) are not consistent; e.g. the PDP-11, which is mostly little endian - for bits within bytes/words, and bytes within words - but not words within long-words.
- On Holy Wars and a Plea For Peace - Danny's note which introduced the terminology