Definition of parameter
1a : an arbitrary constant whose value characterizes a member of a system (such as a family of curves); also : a quantity (such as a mean or variance) that describes a statistical populationb : an independent variable used to express the coordinates of a variable point and functions of them — compare parametric equation
2 : any of a set of physical properties whose values determine the characteristics or behavior of something parameters of the atmosphere such as temperature, pressure, and density
3 : something represented by a parameter : a characteristic element; broadly : characteristic, element, factor political dissent as a parameter of modern life health care is a universal parameter, … a ubiquitous concern across every age, occupation, and class line. — Wayne Biddle
parametricplay \ˌper-ə-ˈme-trik, ˌpa-rə-\ adjective
parametricallyplay \ˌper-ə-ˈme-tri-k(ə-)lē, ˌpa-rə-\ adverb
Recent Examples of parameter from the Web
The fact that James Johnson was at the Heat's meeting with Hayward (and Waiters wasn't) tells me that Johnson remains open to working within the Heat parameters.
The road to table movement may not exactly be popular, but according to Newsweek approximately 20 states now officially sanction roadkill salvage within certain parameters.
The early-2000s assessments were based on a Russia reset, the tide of wars receding, and China as a responsible stakeholder; none of those three planning parameters hold.
These competing conceptions of Turkish identity have largely defined the parameters of political discourse since the republic’s founding.
The Bulls' parameters for a Butler trade never have changed.
Within the parameters of acceptable book-club behavior, there are covert-ish ways to signal attraction: laughing at jokes, holding eye contact a millisecond too long, seconding a book selection.
There aren’t a lot of formal parameters to guide the White House counsel.
Each aircraft manufacturer sets its own parameters for operating temperatures, Feinstein said.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'parameter'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
parameter vs. perimeter
It's very easy to confuse parameter with perimeter. Not only do the two words sound the same, they both connote a boundary or limit.
When parameter is used to mean "a boundary or limit," it is usually in its plural form, and often as the object of a preposition such as within or beyond:
Let's face it, managing weight loss or maintenance can be trying enough within the parameters of a daily routine.
Geoff Kerr, Weight Watchers, November 1991
Though candor sometimes encourages Bruno to "stray beyond the parameters of good taste," his interaction with Lydia is always convincingly portrayed as a loving, tender relationship.
Ron Charles, The Washington Post, 8 Feb. 2011
In geometry, perimeter refers to the boundary of a closed plane figure. You might remember calculating perimeters in school. If each side of an equilateral triangle measures 9 feet, then the perimeter of the triangle measures 27 feet. In more general use, perimeter describes an outer stretch, as in "The college president lived in a house on the perimeter of the campus."
Parameter originally had a meaning pertaining to mathematics as well. The dictionary defines it as "an arbitrary constant whose value characterizes a member of a system (as a family of curves); also : a quantity (as a mean or variance) that describes a statistical population" as well as "an independent variable used to express the coordinates of a variable point and functions of them."
Some twentieth-century usage commentators objected to the use of a scientific-sounding word like parameter in general contexts (as in the examples above), especially to mean "a limit or boundary," theorizing that perimeter must have been what the speaker or writer intended.
However, perimeter was not often used in the phrasings that parameter is used in (that is, as the object of within or beyond) until much later. In fact, a word such as bounds or range or confines often serves as a more appropriate equivalent for parameter than the marginal connotations of perimeter:
But a true novel is an extended piece of fiction: Length is clearly one of its parameters.
Anthony Burgess, The New York Times Book Review, 5 Feb. 1984
Shields will then subsume that request in the overall City operating budget that he will recommend to the City Council in mid-March, and the Council will make its final decisions on the parameters of the budget, including any tax increases or cuts, by the end of April.
Nicholas F. Benton, The Falls Church News Press, 6 Jan. 2016
PARAMETER Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of parameter for English Language Learners
: a rule or limit that controls what something is or how something should be done
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