critical mass


Definition of critical mass

: a size, number, or amount large enough to produce a particular result the critical mass of activity needed for a retail store

Examples of critical mass in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Retailers have said that after gaining a critical mass of customers online, the cost of getting new customers through physical stores is cheaper than remaining online. Keiko Morris, WSJ, "In New York, a Glitzy New Mall Devotes a Floor to Online Retailers," 15 Jan. 2019 That’s real estate speak for hitting critical mass, making Assembly Row feel more like a destination. Janelle Nanos,, "A visit to Assembly Row 2.0," 9 June 2018 While the evidence remains largely preliminary, these individual cases have reached a critical mass, which indicates something is happening that needs to be explored in a more rigorous way. Linda Marsa, Discover Magazine, "A New Treatment for Alzheimer's? It Starts With Lifestyle," 16 Nov. 2018 Build critical mass instead of spreading women leaders too thinly. Kevin Sneader And, WSJ, "How to Overcome the Isolation of Women in the Workplace," 23 Oct. 2018 But Franken got the boot because a critical mass of influential Democrats — including a large bloc of female senators — feel strongly about the issue and have the ability to get their way. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Just look at Bill Shine and Donald Trump.," 24 Sep. 2018 The Kavanaugh fight is expected to do more to help Senate Republican candidates than those for swing House seats, which are largely being fought in the suburbs over local issues and, in some cases, lack critical masses of conservative voters. Jeremy W. Peters, The Seattle Times, "Kavanaugh uproar in Senate fuels GOP races for governor and House," 9 Oct. 2018 Shapiro blames Obama for adopting a lecturing tone that alienated a critical mass of Americans. Ezra Klein, Vox, "Ben Shapiro’s revealing explanation for Donald Trump’s rise: it’s all Obama’s fault," 7 Sep. 2018 Recently, however, something seems to have shifted, and once-in-a-lifetime parties have reached a critical mass. Marshall Heyman, Town & Country, "The New Breed of Birthday Celebration? Lavish International Parties," 30 Nov. 2018

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

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First Known Use of critical mass

1919, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

19 Feb 2019

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The first known use of critical mass was in 1919

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critical mass


Financial Definition of critical mass

What It Is

Critical mass refers to the size a company needs to reach in order to efficiently and competitively participate in the market. This is also the size a company must attain in order to sustain growth and efficiency.

How It Works

A company's critical mass is determined by the size of its staff, resources, revenues, and market share. Once these elements reach the size that enables a company to operate efficiently, it is said that a company has reached its critical mass. Critical mass is the point at which a company becomes profitable.

To illustrate a company's critical mass, consider Company XYZ which was recently formed and has been experiencing steady growth and increasing strength in the market. The company’s steady revenues allowed Company XYZ to invest in more capital and to hire additional employees. XYZ's productivity subsequently increased and their revenues exceed their expenses: XYZ then becomes profitable. The company is said to have reached its critical mass, since its capital and human resources have reached a size at which they can sustain themselves through productive efficiency.

Why It Matters

A company's critical mass is important to consider because it can mean the difference between thriving and surviving in a market environment. A company that sustains profitability is safely above its critical mass.

Source: Investing Answers

critical mass


English Language Learners Definition of critical mass

technical : an amount of material (such as plutonium) that is large enough to allow a nuclear reaction to occur
: the size, number, or amount of something that is needed to cause a particular result

More from Merriam-Webster on critical mass

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with critical mass Encyclopedia article about critical mass

Comments on critical mass

What made you want to look up critical mass? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to corrupt or become corrupted

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