USE_ORDER

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This variable is a colon delimited list of where USE flags are pulled from when building packages. If the USE flag is listed in multiple sources, the first one has highest priority.

Keyword USE Source
env From the current environment variables (USE and those listed in USE_EXPAND)
pkg /etc/portage/package.use
conf /etc/portage/make.conf
defaults From make.defaults and package.use in the profile (e.g. /etc/portage/make.profile/package.use) (see man 5 portage).
pkginternal From the ebuild itself
repo From make.defaults and package.use in the repo's profiles/ top directory (e.g. /usr/portage/profiles/package.use) (see man 5 portage).
env.d /etc/env.d

The default USE ordering is USE_ORDER="env:pkg:conf:defaults:pkginternal:repo:env.d".