cri·​te·​ri·​on krī-ˈtir-ē-ən How to pronounce criterion (audio)
 also  krə-
plural criteria krī-ˈtir-ē-ə How to pronounce criterion (audio)
 also  krə-
also criterions
: a standard on which a judgment or decision may be based
the university's criteria for admission
: a characterizing mark or trait
Is criteria singular or plural?: Usage Guide

The plural criteria has been used as a singular for over half a century.

let me now return to the third criteria R. M. Nixon
that really is the criteria Bert Lance

Many of our examples, like the two foregoing, are taken from speech. But singular criteria is not uncommon in edited prose, and its use both in speech and writing seems to be increasing. Only time will tell whether it will reach the unquestioned acceptability of agenda.

Did you know?

One person's principal criterion for a new car may be its gas mileage, while someone else's may be whether it has room for four children. When filling a job opening, employers usually look for several criteria (notice the plural form) in the applicants; and when college admissions officers are reading student applications, they likewise always keep a few basic criteria in mind. And when interviewing an applicant, one criterion for both the employer and the admissions officer might include the size of the applicant's vocabulary!

Choose the Right Synonym for criterion

standard, criterion, gauge, yardstick, touchstone mean a means of determining what a thing should be.

standard applies to any definite rule, principle, or measure established by authority.

standards of behavior

criterion may apply to anything used as a test of quality whether formulated as a rule or principle or not.

questioned the critic's criteria for excellence

gauge applies to a means of testing a particular dimension (such as thickness, depth, diameter) or figuratively a particular quality or aspect.

polls as a gauge of voter dissatisfaction

yardstick is an informal substitute for criterion that suggests quantity more often than quality.

housing construction as a yardstick of economic growth

touchstone suggests a simple test of the authenticity or value of something intangible.

fine service is one touchstone of a first-class restaurant

Example Sentences

There is really only one criterion for a grab bag of culinary facts and anecdotes like this: It has to make you look up occasionally and remark, "Hey! I never knew that." Laura Shapiro, New York Times Book Review, 25 Dec. 1994 … the induction committee waived its normal five-year retirement criteria for fear Kelley might never retire. Todd Balf, Yankee, 4 Apr. 1992 Christo argues that art must be measured by its effect on the shape of a community. By this criterion Running Fence was enormously successful. O. B. Hardison, Jr., Disappearing Through the Skylight, 1989 What were the criteria used to choose the winner? one criterion for grading these essays will be their conformity to the rules of traditional grammar
Recent Examples on the Web Examples from other areas of medicine tell us that a human heartbeat is neither a necessary nor a sufficient criterion upon which to base complex ethical decisions. Christina Han, Scientific American, 23 Jan. 2023 Many argue, however, that total cost of ownership (TCO) should be used as the EV purchase decision criterion rather than sticker price. IEEE Spectrum, 14 Jan. 2023 The study defines chronic pain accordingly to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) criterion of pain unrelated to cancer on most days or every day in the past six months. Dario Sabaghi, Forbes, 10 Jan. 2023 It’s only the second medication to show any improvement in neurodegeneration, a key criterion in the FDA’s consideration for approval. Alice Park, Time, 6 Jan. 2023 Most memorably, there was the mesmerizing and fully realized tour de force of the late James Gandolfini, whose Herculean performance would mark the advent of a new criterion in episodic screen acting. Hazlitt, 4 Jan. 2023 Now, the group proposed adding a second criterion, the absence of brain activity. Esther Landhuis, Popular Mechanics, 12 Dec. 2022 Then, a few weeks ago, federal officials revealed that a new criterion had been added — one that would carry more weight than any other: proximity to Quantico, where the FBI training academy is located. Courtland Milloy, Washington Post, 29 Nov. 2022 Lefèvre, the museum official, said that community affiliation was too vague a criterion, noting that connections with 19th-century groups were hard to establish. Constant Méheut, New York Times, 28 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'criterion.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


borrowed from Greek kritḗrion, from kri-, variant stem of krī́nein "to separate, choose, decide, judge" + -tērion, suffix of instruments — more at certain entry 1

First Known Use

1622, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of criterion was in 1622

Dictionary Entries Near criterion

Cite this Entry

“Criterion.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


cri·​te·​ri·​on krī-ˈtir-ē-ən How to pronounce criterion (audio)
plural criteria
: a standard on which a judgment or decision may be based

More from Merriam-Webster on criterion

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