da·​ta | \ ˈdā-tə How to pronounce data (audio) , ˈda- How to pronounce data (audio) also ˈdä- How to pronounce data (audio) \

Definition of data

1 : factual information (such as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation the data is plentiful and easily available— H. A. Gleason, Jr. comprehensive data on economic growth have been published— N. H. Jacoby
2 : information in digital form that can be transmitted or processed
3 : information output by a sensing device or organ that includes both useful and irrelevant or redundant information and must be processed to be meaningful

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Is data singular or plural?: Usage Guide

Data leads a life of its own quite independent of datum, of which it was originally the plural. It occurs in two constructions: as a plural noun (like earnings), taking a plural verb and plural modifiers (such as these, many, a few) but not cardinal numbers, and serving as a referent for plural pronouns (such as they, them); and as an abstract mass noun (like information), taking a singular verb and singular modifiers (such as this, much, little), and being referred to by a singular pronoun (it). Both constructions are standard. The plural construction is more common in print, evidently because the house style of several publishers mandates it.

Examples of data in a Sentence

Smith, himself a stay-at-home dad and a journalist, mixes accessible summaries of social-science data with anecdotes drawn from interviews with couples in which the men have chosen, or have been compelled by economic circumstance, to become primary caregivers to their children. — Eduardo M. Pealver, Commonweal, 11 Sept. 2009 He plays Chuck Bartowski, a computer-tech expert with the Buy More store's Nerd Herd … who unwittingly becomes a secret agent when government data is downloaded to his brain. — Michael Logan, TV Guide, September 10-16, 2007 As measurements get better and more data pour in, physicists will bring those errors under control and chart exciting new territory. But for many, the wait is a strain. — Charles Seife, Science, 2 May 2003 By studying obscure demographic and economic data, he deduced that the Soviets were in crisis—and spending a far bigger slice of its national income on defense than anyone had suspected. — John Barry et al., Newsweek, 21 May 2001
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Recent Examples on the Web The data is pulled directly from each committee’s raw, electronic reports and does not include paper filings. USA Today, "Who big-city residents support, and what it might say about 2020 presidential election," 18 Feb. 2020 Simply aggregating the information so that no individual’s activity can be identified wasn’t enough for Facebook, which insisted on also encoding the data via a technology called differential privacy. Steven Levy, Wired, "The Social Network Becomes a Social Science Subject," 14 Feb. 2020 Several major charitable organizations chipped in $11 million to fund proposals from scientists who wanted to use the data, and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), a nonprofit organization, agreed to manage the grantmaking process. Jeffrey Mervis, Science | AAAS, "Researchers finally get access to data on Facebook’s role in political discourse," 13 Feb. 2020 The compute power to evaluate the data is also doubling. Fox News, "DOE Undersecretary for Science talks investing in Antarctica, national lab system and more: Q&A," 11 Feb. 2020 This data doesn’t show the meat of the fundraising, though. Ramsey Archibald | Rarchibald@al.com, al, "Bernie Sanders has been unpopular in Alabama. Could that change?," 11 Feb. 2020 When scrutinizing Trump’s economic record, our factcheckers oscillate from the hyper-contextual argument to the raw data, depending on which strategy works best to give Obama credit. David Harsanyi, National Review, "Factcheckers Have Become the Janissaries of the Obama Legacy," 5 Feb. 2020 Classes are going from being commerce-focused to being more data-driven, as reflected by the conversion to STEM classifications for an increasing number of the school’s programs. Michelle Cheng, Quartz at Work, "Why MBA programs want to be classified as STEM studies," 4 Feb. 2020 Nationally, Bloomberg has spent $26.8 million on Google and $18.2 million on Facebook according to Acronym, which tracks the online data. Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Why does it look like Michael Bloomberg is the only Democrat running for president in Wisconsin?," 31 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'data.' 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 data

1646, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for data

Latin, plural of datum — see datum

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Learn More about data

Statistics for data

Last Updated

22 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Data.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/data. Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for data


How to pronounce data (audio) How to pronounce data (audio) How to pronounce data (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of data

: facts or information used usually to calculate, analyze, or plan something
: information that is produced or stored by a computer


noun plural
da·​ta | \ ˈdā-tə How to pronounce data (audio) , ˈda-tə \

Kids Definition of data

1 : facts about something that can be used in calculating, reasoning, or planning
2 : information expressed as numbers for use especially in a computer
Hint: Data can be used as a singular or a plural in writing and speaking. This data is useful. These data have been questioned.


noun plural but singular or plural in construction
da·​ta | \ ˈdāt-ə How to pronounce data (audio) , ˈdat- How to pronounce data (audio) , ˈdät- How to pronounce data (audio) \

Medical Definition of data

: factual information (as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation the data is plentiful and easily available— H. A. Gleason, Jr. comprehensive data on the incidence of Lyme disease

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More from Merriam-Webster on data

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for data

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with data

Spanish Central: Translation of data

Nglish: Translation of data for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of data for Arabic Speakers

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