[ soo-bi-tahyz ]
/ ˈsu bɪˌtaɪz /

verb (used without object), su·bi·tized, su·bi·tiz·ing. Psychology.

to perceive at a glance the number of items presented, the limit for humans being about seven.



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Also especially British, su·bi·tise.

Origin of subitize

1949; < Latin subit(us) sudden or Late Latin subit(āre) to appear suddenly (see subito) + -ize Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020


What does subitize mean?

To subitize is to identify the number of things in a set simply by quickly looking at them—not by counting them one by one.

The practice of subitizing has its roots in psychology, but it is now taught in some preschools and early grades in addition to traditional counting.

Example: Humans can subitize up to seven objects at once without having to count.

Where does subitize come from?

Subitize was introduced in a 1949 journal article by a research team led by psychologist E. L. Kaufman, who credited language professor Cornelia Coulter with coining it. It is most likely formed from a combination of the Latin subit(us), meaning “sudden” (or the Late Latin subit(āre), meaning “to appear suddenly”), and the suffix -ize, which is used to create verbs.

Subitizing has been studied at length and most results show that humans can subitize up to seven items in a single glance. This is done by grouping the objects into sets (of three and four, for example) and then adding those sets together mentally. In the early 1900s, many scholars theorized that subitizing could be more efficient than counting, especially for young children. Substantial research supports the idea that children are very good at subitizing early in life and can even do it before they can count in some cases. However, some research suggests that subitization is more commonly used by children as a method of speeding up the counting process after basic counting has already been learned. Still, children are often taught to subitize in many schools.

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What are some other forms of subitize?

  • subitization (noun)

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

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

How is subitize used in real life?

The word subitize is often used in academic and theoretical contexts, but subitizing is also taught to schoolchildren with fun activities and games.



Try using subitize!

True or false?

Subitizing is the same as counting, just faster.

British Dictionary definitions for subitize



/ (ˈsʌbɪˌtaɪz) /


psychol to perceive the number of (a group of items) at a glance and without countingthe maximum number of items that can be subitized is about five

Word Origin for subitize

C20: from Latin subitus sudden + -ize
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