# parametric

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## pa·ram·e·ter

(pə-răm′ĭ-tər)*n.*

**1.**

*Mathematics*

**a.**A constant in an equation that varies in other equations of the same general form, especially such a constant in the equation of a curve or surface that can be varied to represent a family of curves or surfaces.

**b.**One of a set of independent variables that express the coordinates of a point.

**2.**

**a.**One of a set of measurable factors, such as temperature and pressure, that define a system and determine its behavior and are varied in an experiment.

**b.**

*Usage Problem*A factor that restricts what is possible or what results: "all the parameters of shelter—where people will live, what mode of housing they will choose, and how they will pay for it" (New York).

**c.**A factor that determines a range of variations; a boundary: an experimental school that keeps expanding the parameters of its curriculum.

**3.**

*Statistics*A quantity, such as a mean, that is calculated from data and describes a population.

**4.**

*Usage Problem*A distinguishing characteristic or feature.

[New Latin parametrum,

*a line through the focus and parallel to the directrix of a conic*: Greek para-,*beside*; see**para-**^{1}+ Greek metron,*measure*; see**-meter**.]**par′a·met′ric**(păr′ə-mĕt′rĭk),

**par′a·met′ri·cal**

*adj.*

**par′a·met′ri·cal·ly**

*adv.*

**The term**

*Usage Note:**parameter,*which originates in mathematics, has a number of specific meanings in fields such as astronomy, electricity, crystallography, and statistics. Perhaps because of its ring of technical authority, people have applied

*parameter*more generally in recent years to refer to any factor that determines a range of variations and especially to a factor that restricts what results from a process or policy. In this use, the word

*parameter*is used to mean "the particular value of a parameter," and comes close to meaning "a set limit or boundary." For example, a budget can be thought of as a set of parameters that determine a range of activity, much like a set of mathematical parameters that establish the range of effects, or limits, of other variables. The sentence

*A budget is a framework that defines the financial parameters within which an organization operates*was considered acceptable by 81 percent of the Usage Panel in our 2004 survey.

*Parameter*is sometimes used incorrectly when it does not denote a range of variation, as if it were a technical-sounding synonym for

*characteristic.*In 1988, 88 percent of the Usage Panel rejected the sentence

*The Judeo-Christian ethic is one of the important parameters of Western culture.*In 2004, 77 percent rejected this same sentence, suggesting that familiarity has not bred tolerance of this usage.

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Adj. | 1. | parametric - of or relating to or in terms of a parameter; "parametric equation" |

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