• zero-sum
  • audio pronunciation
  • \ZEER-oh-SUM\
  • DEFINITION

adjective

: of, relating to, or being a situation (as a game or relationship) in which a gain for one side entails a corresponding loss for the other side
  • EXAMPLES

A political election is a zero-sum game—only one candidate can get the job.

"As long as there is a shortage of organs, transplantation will remain a zero-sum game. Giving an organ to one person denies somebody else, raising a variety of painful ethical questions." — From an article by Alan Zarembo in the Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2013

  • DID YOU KNOW?

Does game theory sound like fun? It can be—if you are a mathematician or economist who needs to analyze a competitive situation in which the outcome is determined by the choices of the players and chance. Game theory was introduced by mathematician John von Neumann and economist Oskar Morgenstern in their 1944 book The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior. In game theory, a zero-sum game is one, such as chess or checkers, where each player has a clear purpose that is completely opposed to that of the opponent. In economics, a situation is zero-sum if the gains of one party are exactly balanced by the losses of another and no net gain or loss is created. (Such situations are rare.)

Test Your Memory: What is the meaning of "addlepated," our Word of the Day from July 18? The answer is …

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