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plurality

[ ploo-ral-i-tee ]
/ plʊˈræl ɪ ti /
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Definition of plurality

noun, plural plu·ral·i·ties.
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Origin of plurality

First recorded in 1325–75; Middle English pluralite, from Old French, from Late Latin plūrālitās; see plural, -ity

synonym study for plurality

1. See majority.

OTHER WORDS FROM plurality

non·plu·ral·i·ty, noun, plural non·plu·ral·i·ties.

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH plurality

majority, plurality (see synonym study at majority)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

PLURALITY VS. MAJORITY

What’s the difference between a plurality and a majority?

Generally speaking, word plurality refers to an amount that’s the largest of all the amounts that make up a total (even if it’s less than half), while the word majority refers to an amount that’s larger than half of a total.

In casual use, the two words are sometimes used interchangeably to mean more than half of a total.

They are also sometimes used interchangeably in an election with only two candidates (though majority is much more commonly used in the context). That’s because, in an election with only two ways to vote, getting more votes necessarily means getting more than half of the votes. For example, in such an election, a candidate can be said to have won by a two-thirds majority or a two-thirds plurality (meaning they have received two-thirds of all the votes cast, with the losing candidate receiving one-third).

The terms are used in differing ways in elections with three or more candidates. In such an election, the word plurality often refers to the highest number of votes received when no candidate has received more than 50% of the vote.

In this context, to win a plurality of votes, you just have to get the largest percentage of all vote-getters, which may not be as high as 50%. For example, a candidate in a three-way race may win the plurality by getting 40% of votes, with the runner-up getting 35% of votes and the last-place finisher getting 25% of votes. To win a majority of votes, a candidate would have to get more than 50%.

Sometimes, plurality refers to how many more votes the winner has than the runner-up, and majority refers to the number of votes by which a candidate has exceeded the amount that would be 50%.

If three candidates were to receive 600, 300, and 100 votes, the winner would have a 100-vote majority (due to having 100 votes more than 500, which is half of the total of 1,000 votes cast) and a plurality of 300 votes over the nearest opponent.

Some types of elections require a candidate to receive the majority of the votes to win the election, while others just require a plurality.

Here’s an example of plurality and majority used correctly in the same sentence.

Example: Although no candidate received the majority of the vote, Ms. Molineaux got the plurality with 40%.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between plurality and majority.

Quiz yourself on plurality vs. majority!

Should plurality or majority be used in the following sentence?

At 65% of all purchases, sneakers make up the _____ of the company’s sales.

How to use plurality in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for plurality

plurality
/ (plʊəˈrælɪtɪ) /

noun plural -ties
the state of being plural or numerous
maths a number greater than one
US and Canadian the excess of votes or seats won by the winner of an election over the runner-up when no candidate or party has more than 50 per centBritish equivalent: relative majority
a large number
the greater number; majority
another word for pluralism (def. 1)
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
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