optimum

noun

op·​ti·​mum ˈäp-tə-məm How to pronounce optimum (audio)
plural optima ˈäp-tə-mə How to pronounce optimum (audio) also optimums
1
: the amount or degree of something that is most favorable to some end
The substances were mixed in various proportions until an optimum was reached.
especially : the most favorable condition for the growth and reproduction of an organism
The soil condition for this crop is now at an optimum.
2
: greatest degree attained or attainable under implied or specified conditions
This agricultural pest reaches its optimum farther south.
optimum adjective

Example Sentences

The substances were mixed in various proportions until an optimum was reached.
Recent Examples on the Web The average thickness of the meat cut by butchers for breaded beef was 5.9 mm, not too far from the optimum. Seriously Science, Discover Magazine, 17 July 2013 The Ottoman Empire was stuck at a local optimum. Razib Khan, National Review, 31 July 2021 However, the average thickness of the meat in the breaded beef ready for frying sold by the same butchers 3.7 mm, clearly thinner than the optimum. Seriously Science, Discover Magazine, 17 July 2013 This illustrates the evolutionary principle of convergence, where different populations approach the same phenotypic optimum, though by somewhat different means. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 22 Jan. 2012 Given enough time and gene flow no doubt adaptations would homogenize and converge upon a perfect optimum, but given enough time the universe will devolve into heat death. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 3 July 2010 The optimum would be to toss into the stream of discussion an AI outlier comment that would get everyone to go full-on fissionable red hot. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 10 July 2022 Some of that will now happen regardless, but there’s still scope to fiddle with the optimum at the margins. Trond Arne Undheim, Forbes, 13 Apr. 2022 Buxton showed the optimum of his skills when he was named the American League's Player of the Month this past April. Star Tribune, 8 June 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'optimum.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

borrowed from Latin, from neuter of optimus (earlier optumus) "best," probably originally "foremost, headmost," from ob "toward, in front of" + -tumus, -timus, superlative suffix (going back to Indo-European *-tm̥mos) — more at ob-

Note: Traditionally the initial element op- has been taken as the stem of op-, *ops "power, ability, wealth" (see opus), though superlative derivatives with -(t)imus are regularly formed from spatial prepositions (as extimus, intimus, postumus), not nouns. The inscriptional forms opitimus, opitumus probably contain an epenthetic vowel and hence would not be of etymological relevance.

First Known Use

1848, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of optimum was in 1848

Dictionary Entries Near optimum

Cite this Entry

“Optimum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/optimum. Accessed 9 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition

optimum

1 of 2 noun
op·​ti·​mum
ˈäp-tə-məm
plural optima
-mə
also optimums
: the best or most favorable amount or degree

optimum

2 of 2 adjective
: most desirable or satisfactory
under optimum conditions

Medical Definition

optimum

noun
op·​ti·​mum ˈäp-tə-məm How to pronounce optimum (audio)
plural optima -mə How to pronounce optimum (audio) also optimums
1
: the amount or degree of something that is most favorable to some end
especially : the most favorable condition for the growth and reproduction of an organism
2
: greatest degree attained or attainable under implied or specified conditions
optimum adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on optimum

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