[ krahy-teer-ee-uhn ]
/ kraɪˈtɪər i ən /
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noun, plural cri·te·ri·a [krahy-teer-ee-uh], /kraɪˈtɪər i ə/, cri·te·ri·ons.

a standard of judgment or criticism; a rule or principle for evaluating or testing something.



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Origin of criterion

First recorded in 1605–15; from Greek kritḗrion “a standard,” equivalent to kri- variant stem of krī́nein “to separate, decide” + -tērion neuter suffix of means (akin to Latin -tōrium -tory2)

synonym study for criterion

See standard.

usage note for criterion

Like some other nouns borrowed from the Greek, criterion has both a Greek plural, criteria, and a plural formed on the English pattern, criterions. However, the -s plural is rarely used; the plural ending in -a is the usual form: These are the criteria for the selection of candidates. Though criteria is properly a plural noun, it is increasingly used as a singular noun, most often in speech but also occasionally in edited prose: One criteria is that the candidate must be over 18. This use of criteria as a singular noun is generally considered incorrect.


cri·te·ri·al, adjective


criteria , criterion (see usage note at the current entry)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does criterion mean?

A criterion is a standard or principle for judging, evaluating, or selecting something. It’s an ideal or requirement on which the judgment, evaluation, or selection is based.

The plural of criterion can be criteria or criterions, but criterions is rarely used.

A criterion is often a certain requirement that someone or something must meet in order to be considered or qualify for something. An applicant for a job may be evaluated based on several criteria, including their education, experience, and references—each one of these standards is a criterion. Your grade in a class may be based on certain criteria, such as your test scores, your grades on homework and other assignments, and your participation in class. Similarly, a gymnast’s score is based on several criteria involving how well they performed certain moves.

The word criteria is often used with the word meet, as in Your entry meets all of our criteria for inclusion in the exhibit. 

Sometimes, people try to use criteria as a singular noun (like how data is sometimes used), but this is generally considered not the right way to use it.

Example: We assess the candidates based on several criteria, and one criterion is that they must have at least five years of experience in a similar position.

Where does criterion come from?

The first records of the word criterion come from the early 1600s. It comes from the Greek kritḗrion, meaning “a standard,” from kritēs, “judge,” from krinein, “to decide.” The word critic and related words like critical and criticism are based on the same root.

The word criterion is always used in the context of some kind of decision, judgment, or evaluation. But it’s not only used in official or formal situations. For example, when shopping for a new TV, you may have several criteria for selecting one that include things like how big it is and how much it costs.

The word criterion appears in the name of the Criterion Collection, a collection of films that are selected because they are thought to be important and to meet a certain standard of cinematic excellence.

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What are some other forms related to criterion?

  • criteria (plural)
  • criterions (rarely used plural)
  • criterial (adjective)

What are some synonyms for criterion?

What are some words that share a root or word element with criterion

What are some words that often get used in discussing criterion?

How is criterion used in real life?

Criterion is typically used in situations in which things are being judged or evaluated in some way. The plural criteria is even more common (since things are usually evaluated based on multiple criteria instead of just a single criterion).


Try using criterion!

Is criterion used correctly in the following sentence?

What’s your most important criterion for choosing a roommate?

Example sentences from the Web for criterion

British Dictionary definitions for criterion

/ (kraɪˈtɪərɪən) /

noun plural -ria (-rɪə) or -rions

a standard by which something can be judged or decided
philosophy a defining characteristic of something

Word Origin for criterion

C17: from Greek kritērion from kritēs judge, from krinein to decide

usage for criterion

Criteria, the plural of criterion, is not acceptable as a singular noun: this criterion is not valid; these criteria are not valid
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