Definition of parameter in English:


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  • 1 technical A numerical or other measurable factor forming one of a set that defines a system or sets the conditions of its operation.

    ‘the transmission will not let you downshift unless your speed is within the lower gear's parameters’
    • ‘The programming uses script files that contain specific system parameters to operate in each of these modes.’
    • ‘The set of code modules includes code modules associated with a plurality of system configuration parameters.’
    • ‘Now we need to optimize the system and improve its operation parameters and design.’
    • ‘The first circuit is configured to monitor an electrical operating parameter associated with operation of the CAN bus.’
    • ‘An operator can input the parameters that define the geometry of the valve seat profile.’
    instructions, stipulations, requirements, conditions, provisions, restrictions, provisos, guidelines, parameters, order
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    1. 1.1Mathematics A quantity whose value is selected for the particular circumstances and in relation to which other variable quantities may be expressed.
      ‘As gene diversity is a continuous variable, the expected value of the parameter was calculated using a sliding window of 0.0125.’
      • ‘Choosing different values for the various parameters in the equation he then tried to investigate when situations were stable and when they were unstable.’
      • ‘The real effort goes into testing these hypotheses and calculating the true values of parameters such as N.’
      • ‘On the other hand, keeping m and n fixed for a few trials leaves a lot of room to experiment with the third parameter even for small values of m and n.’
      • ‘The x-axis is the value of the selection parameter in the PRF model under which the data were simulated.’
    2. 1.2Statistics A numerical characteristic of a population, as distinct from a statistic of a sample.
      ‘Such a ‘rate’ can be modeled statistically by the probability parameter of a binomial distribution.’
      • ‘The spiral pattern is sufficiently regular that it leads to a numerical parameter characteristic for the species, called its divergence.’
      • ‘Typically, polymorphism in a sample is needed to perform those tests and estimate population parameters.’
      • ‘This will remind test users that the reliability coefficient in hand is not the population parameter and that the reliability estimate is affected by sampling error.’
      • ‘The normal curve approach to inference begins by asserting a null hypothesis that is expressed using population parameters.’
    3. 1.3(in general use) a limit or boundary that defines the scope of a particular process or activity.
      ‘they set the parameters of the debate’
      • ‘First, I do not accept the framework you outline above as limiting the parameters of our debate.’
      • ‘However, I can't get away from the fact that my guiding parameters are somewhat limited by my lack of motoring knowledge.’
      • ‘One of the main benefits of a home birth is the amount of control a mother can exercise over the location and parameters of the birthing process.’
      • ‘Such a voluntary approach is limited to the parameters the company sets for itself.’
      • ‘And so, media debate is restricted within tightly constrained parameters that serve capital, but not democracy.’
      framework, variable, limit, boundary, limiting factor, limitation, restriction, specification, criterion, guideline
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/pəˈramədər/ /pəˈræmədər/


Until recently, use of the word parameter was confined to mathematics and related technical fields. Since around the mid 20th century, however, it has been used in nontechnical fields as a technical-sounding word for ‘a limit or boundary,’ as in they set the parameters of the debate. This use, probably influenced by the word perimeter, has been criticized for being a weakening of the technical sense. Careful writers will leave parameter to specialists in mathematics, computer science, and other technical disciplines. As a loose synonym for limit, boundary, guideline, framework, it is a vogue word that blurs more than it clarifies. Perimeter is a different word, meaning ‘border, outer boundary, or the length of such a boundary.’


Mid 17th century modern Latin, from Greek para- ‘beside’ + metron ‘measure’.