Benford's Law


Ben·​ford's Law ˈben-fərdz- How to pronounce Benford's Law (audio)
: a law in statistics: the probability of a particular numeral n appearing in the first decimal place of an element of a set of numbers is equal to log10(1+¹/ₙ)

Note: This law describes how, in any given collection of numbers being studied, more of them will be likely to start with a 1 than any other number. 2's will appear at the beginning less often, 3's still less, and so on, at a predictable rate.

Word History


after Frank Benford †1948 American physicist

Note: The probability was defined by Benford in "The Law of Anomalous Numbers," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 78, no. 4 (March 31, 1938), pp. 551-72.

First Known Use

1969, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Benford's Law was in 1969

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Cite this Entry

“Benford's Law.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jul. 2024.

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