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Question 1 of 7
Fill in the blank: I can鈥檛 figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Idioms about average

    on the / an average, usually; typically: She can read 50 pages an hour, on the average.

Origin of average

1485鈥95; earlier averay charge on goods shipped, originally duty (<Middle French avarie<Old Italian avaria<Arabic 士aw膩r墨yah damaged merchandise), with -age replacing -ay


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 漏 Random House, Inc. 2023


What鈥檚 the difference between average, mean, median, and mode?

In the context of mathematics and statistics, the word average refers to what鈥檚 more formally called the mean, which is the sum of a set of values divided by the number of values. In contrast, the median is the middle number in a set of values when those values are arranged from smallest to largest, while the mode of a set of values is the most frequently repeated value in the set.

The word average is of course also very commonly used in more general ways. In math, though, it鈥檚 helpful to use more specific terms when determining the most representative or common value in a set of numbers.

To illustrate the difference, let鈥檚 look at an example set of seven values: 2, 3, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9.

To get the mean of this set, you鈥檇 add up all the values (2+3+3+4+6+8+9=35) and then divide that total by the number of values (7), resulting in a mean of 5. This is what most people are referring to when they refer to the average of some set of numbers.

To find the median, you have to find the one that鈥檚 sequentially in the middle. In a set of seven numbers arranged in increasing value, the median is the fourth number (since there are three before and three after). In this set (2, 3, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9), the median is 4. When a set has an even number of values, the median is the mean of the two middle values.

The mode is simply the value that shows up the most. In the example set, the mode is 3, since it occurs twice and all the other values occur only once.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between average, mean, median, and mode.

Quiz yourself on average vs. mean vs. median vs. mode!

Should average, mean, median, or mode be used in the following sentence?

The most frequently repeated test score is 80, so it鈥檚 the _____ of the set.

How to use average in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for average

/ (藞忙v蓹r瑟d蕭, 藞忙vr瑟d蕭) /


Derived forms of average

averagely, adverbaverageness, noun

Word Origin for average

C15 averay loss arising from damage to ships or cargoes (shared equitably among all concerned, hence the modern sense), from Old Italian avaria, ultimately from Arabic aw膩r damage, blemish
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition 漏 William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 漏 HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Scientific definitions for average

[ 膬v蓹r-沫j ]

A number, especially the arithmetic mean, that is derived from and considered typical or representative of a set of numbers. Compare arithmetic mean median mode.
The American Heritage庐 Science Dictionary Copyright 漏 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for average


A single number that represents a set of numbers. Means, medians, and modes are kinds of averages; usually, however, the term average refers to a mean.

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