Most fields are indexed by default, which makes them searchable. The inverted index allows queries to look up the search term in unique sorted list of terms, and from that immediately have access to the list of documents that contain the term.
Sorting, aggregations, and access to field values in scripts requires a different data access pattern. Instead of looking up the term and finding documents, we need to be able to look up the document and find the terms that it has in a field.
Doc values are the on-disk data structure, built at document index time, which
makes this data access pattern possible. They store the same values as the
_source but in a column-oriented fashion that is way more efficient for
sorting and aggregations. Doc values are supported on almost all field types,
with the notable exception of
analyzed string fields.
All fields which support doc values have them enabled by default. If you are sure that you don’t need to sort or aggregate on a field, or access the field value from a script, you can disable doc values in order to save disk space:
doc_values setting is allowed to have different settings for fields
of the same name in the same index. It can be disabled (set to
existing fields using the PUT mapping API.