[ puh-ram-i-ter ]
See synonyms for parameter on
  1. Mathematics.

    • a constant or variable term in a function that determines the specific form of the function but not its general nature, as a in f(x) = ax, where a determines only the slope of the line described by f(x).

    • one of the independent variables in a set of parametric equations.

  2. Statistics. a variable entering into the mathematical form of any distribution such that the possible values of the variable correspond to different distributions.

  1. Computers. a variable that must be given a specific value during the execution of a program or of a procedure within a program.

  2. Usually parameters. limits or boundaries; guidelines: the basic parameters of our foreign policy.

  3. characteristic or factor; aspect; element: a useful parameter for judging long-term success.

Origin of parameter

From the New Latin word parametrum, dating back to 1650–60; see para-1, -meter

usage note For parameter

4, 5. Some object strongly to the use of parameter in these newer senses. Nevertheless, the criticized uses are now well established both in educated speech and in edited writing.

Other words from parameter

  • par·a·met·ric [par-uh-me-trik], /ˌpær əˈmɛ trɪk/, par·a·met·ri·cal, adjective

Words that may be confused with parameter

Words Nearby parameter Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use parameter in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for parameter


/ (pəˈræmɪtə) /

  1. one of a number of auxiliary variables in terms of which all the variables in an implicit functional relationship can be explicitly expressed: See parametric equations

  2. a variable whose behaviour is not being considered and which may for present purposes be regarded as a constant, as y in the partial derivative ∂f(x,y)/∂ x

  1. statistics a characteristic of the distribution of a population, such as its mean, as distinct from that of a sample: Compare statistic

  2. informal any constant or limiting factor: a designer must work within the parameters of budget and practicality

Origin of parameter

C17: from New Latin; see para- 1, -meter

Derived forms of parameter

  • parametric (ˌpærəˈmɛtrɪk) or parametrical, adjective

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for parameter


[ (puh-ram-uh-tuhr) ]

A quantity or number on which some other quantity or number depends. An informal example is, “Depending on the traffic, it takes me between twenty minutes and an hour to drive to work”; here, “traffic” is the parameter that determines the time it takes to get to work. In statistics, a parameter is an unknown characteristic of a population — for example, the number of women in a particular precinct who will vote Democratic.

Notes for parameter

The term is often mistakenly used to refer to the limits of possible values a variable can have because of confusion with the word perimeter.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.