cri·​te·​ri·​on krī-ˈtir-ē-ən How to pronounce criterion (audio)
 also  krə-
plural criteria krī-ˈtir-ē-ə How to pronounce criterion (audio)
 also  krə-
also criterions
: a standard on which a judgment or decision may be based
the university's criteria for admission
: a characterizing mark or trait
Is criteria singular or plural?: Usage Guide

The plural criteria has been used as a singular for over half a century.

let me now return to the third criteria R. M. Nixon
that really is the criteria Bert Lance

Many of our examples, like the two foregoing, are taken from speech. But singular criteria is not uncommon in edited prose, and its use both in speech and writing seems to be increasing. Only time will tell whether it will reach the unquestioned acceptability of agenda.

Did you know?

One person's principal criterion for a new car may be its gas mileage, while someone else's may be whether it has room for four children. When filling a job opening, employers usually look for several criteria (notice the plural form) in the applicants; and when college admissions officers are reading student applications, they likewise always keep a few basic criteria in mind. And when interviewing an applicant, one criterion for both the employer and the admissions officer might include the size of the applicant's vocabulary!

Choose the Right Synonym for criterion

standard, criterion, gauge, yardstick, touchstone mean a means of determining what a thing should be.

standard applies to any definite rule, principle, or measure established by authority.

standards of behavior

criterion may apply to anything used as a test of quality whether formulated as a rule or principle or not.

questioned the critic's criteria for excellence

gauge applies to a means of testing a particular dimension (such as thickness, depth, diameter) or figuratively a particular quality or aspect.

polls as a gauge of voter dissatisfaction

yardstick is an informal substitute for criterion that suggests quantity more often than quality.

housing construction as a yardstick of economic growth

touchstone suggests a simple test of the authenticity or value of something intangible.

fine service is one touchstone of a first-class restaurant

Examples of criterion in a Sentence

There is really only one criterion for a grab bag of culinary facts and anecdotes like this: It has to make you look up occasionally and remark, "Hey! I never knew that." Laura Shapiro, New York Times Book Review, 25 Dec. 1994
… the induction committee waived its normal five-year retirement criteria for fear Kelley might never retire. Todd Balf, Yankee, 4 Apr. 1992
Christo argues that art must be measured by its effect on the shape of a community. By this criterion Running Fence was enormously successful. O. B. Hardison, Jr., Disappearing Through the Skylight, 1989
What were the criteria used to choose the winner? one criterion for grading these essays will be their conformity to the rules of traditional grammar
Recent Examples on the Web These systems analyze resumes to match job seekers with job openings based on criteria such as skills, experience, and education. Q Hamirani, Forbes, 15 Feb. 2024 Percent meeting retirement criteria reflects only people 35 and older; younger people did not have to meet the retirement criteria to meet the full definition. Scott Clement, Washington Post, 15 Feb. 2024 The structure set for demolition is also not yet old enough to meet the criteria for historical designation at the local or state level. Jennifer Van Grove, San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Feb. 2024 People with a family history of Alzheimer’s who meet certain criteria can sign up for the study at Retain Your Brain. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, 12 Feb. 2024 The bill would tweak the Blueprint’s language to allow districts with under 40 schools to flexibly use 10% of their concentration of poverty grants on administrative and other costs that meet certain criteria. Lilly Price, Baltimore Sun, 9 Feb. 2024 To compile the ratings, Forbes Travel Guide sent teams to pose in disguise as regular guests to test and score each place on 900 factors and criteria. Chyna Blackmon, Charlotte Observer, 8 Feb. 2024 Your bylaws must contain a provision, under New York’s Condominium Act, allowing unit owners to remove a board member, along with criteria for doing so. Jill Terreri Ramos, New York Times, 3 Feb. 2024 The requirements typically include: Eligibility Requirements for the CPA Exam The CPA Exam has specific eligibility criteria to ensure that candidates possess the foundational knowledge and skills necessary for the accounting profession. Bryce Welker, Miami Herald, 2 Feb. 2024 See More

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

Word History


borrowed from Greek kritḗrion, from kri-, variant stem of krī́nein "to separate, choose, decide, judge" + -tērion, suffix of instruments — more at certain entry 1

First Known Use

1622, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of criterion was in 1622

Dictionary Entries Near criterion

Cite this Entry

“Criterion.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


cri·​te·​ri·​on krī-ˈtir-ē-ən How to pronounce criterion (audio)
plural criteria
: a standard on which a judgment or decision may be based

More from Merriam-Webster on criterion

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