da·ta | \ ˈdā-tə , ˈda- also ˈdä- \

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

Far more people have a fear of flying that doesn’t reach phobia levels, despite the fact that people are flying more than ever before and plenty of data shows it’s a reliably safe way to travel. Jamie Ducharme, Time, "Why Some People Have a Crippling Fear of Flying — and How They Can Overcome It," 6 July 2018 In 2025, 40 billion smart devices that sense and 100 billion connections will shatter information silos, enabling the faster, more secure, and smarter exchange of data. The Economist, "Ceasefires in South Sudan seldom last," 5 July 2018 Broward County added 4,300 construction jobs over the year, with an average annual wage of nearly $50,000, according to data from Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity. Marcia Heroux Pounds, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Construction job fair July 11 in Broward," 5 July 2018 In 2016 in Connecticut, there were 9.4 births per 1,000 teenage girls ages 15 to 19, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health—well below the national average of 20.3 per 1,000 women. courant.com, "When It Comes To Fertility Rates, Connecticut Ranks Among The Lowest In The Country," 27 June 2018 For the 2016-2017 school year, Howard County had the lowest rate of chronic student absenteeism in the state, under 10 percent, according to data from the State Department of Education. Jess Nocera, Howard County Times, "Howard school absentee rate is lowest in Maryland," 22 June 2018 Cancer is the leading cause of death among Hispanics, with 1 in 3 Hispanic women and 1 in 3 Hispanic men diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, according to data from the American Cancer Society and used by the campign. Katya Alalykina, Houston Chronicle, "Campaign launched to inform Hispanics about early cancer screenings," 13 June 2018 The median price of a home in the local metro area was $231,900 in May, a 4.8 percent increase from $221,300 a year before, according to data from the San Antonio Board of Realtors. Richard Webner, San Antonio Express-News, "San Antonio home prices reach a new high," 12 June 2018 None of the data is disaggregated by race, meaning this number includes black farm workers as well. Anne Branigin, The Root, "White South African Farmers, Fearing Violence, Tap Israeli Special Forces Agent for Defense Classes," 7 June 2018

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

Dictionary Entries near data





data bank



Phrases Related to data

data recovery

flight data recorder

Statistics for data

Last Updated

20 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for data

The first known use of data was in 1646

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More Definitions for data



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

da·ta | \ ˈdā-tə , 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.

da·ta | \ ˈdāt-ə , ˈdat- , ˈdät- \

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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