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 safety data gained from large, Phase 3 trials will still be essential to show the vaccines are ready to be deployed in large populations. Washington Post, "Britain to infect healthy volunteers with coronavirus in vaccine challenge trials," 20 Oct. 2020 Today, 30% of patient records are linked to the wrong people for a variety of reasons, such as when data in health care databases is incomplete or out of date. Mark Larow, STAT, "Cell phone numbers could provide a fast-track solution to matching patients with their health records," 20 Oct. 2020 As of last Tuesday, the most recent day for which data was available, an average of nearly 24,000 tests were being done each day over the past seven days. Shari Rudavsky, The Indianapolis Star, "Indiana coronavirus cases: 1,551 new cases, 48 new deaths reported," 20 Oct. 2020 National data is incomplete, but available information suggests U.S. drug overdose deaths are on track to reach an all-time high. NBC News, "Overdose deaths appear to rise amid coronavirus pandemic in U.S.," 20 Oct. 2020 Considering how wrong the polling data was back in 2016, investors are understandably cautious this time around. Carol Ryan, WSJ, "Pot Stocks Go on a Chilled-Out Election Rally," 20 Oct. 2020 Cox’s data are for the 12 months ended Sept. 20 and come from its Dealertrack software installed in showrooms across the country for use in credit applications and purchases. Keith Naughton, Bloomberg.com, "Detroit Automakers Face Delicate Dance With Red-State Supporters," 20 Oct. 2020 But between April and June, the last period for which data is available, only nine bingo halls were able to give anything at all. Liz Hardaway, ExpressNews.com, "San Antonio bingo halls have considerably less to give after coronavirus deals heavy blow," 19 Oct. 2020 The data has been even better in Orleans Parish, where tests have come back positive at a rate of 2.5% or less on all 14 days. Jeff Asher, NOLA.com, "Jeff Asher: Amid national resurgence of coronavirus, Louisiana can be proud of 'fragile' progress," 19 Oct. 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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Statistics for data

Last Updated

23 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Data.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/data. Accessed 30 Oct. 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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