A benchmark is a standard that other similar items can be compared to — that way everything is measured against a common standard.

Benchmark originally referred to a mark made on a wall or building by a surveyor for use as a reference point. The word still retains that meaning, but nowadays you’re more likely to hear it used in a figurative sense to describe a standard used to measure the worth of something. A particular item is selected as a benchmark, and other similar items are compared to the benchmark. A popular sitcom may be the benchmark other shows are judged against.

Definitions of benchmark
  1. noun
    a surveyor's mark on a permanent object of predetermined position and elevation used as a reference point
    synonyms: bench mark
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    type of:
    point of reference, reference, reference point
    an indicator that orients you generally
  2. noun
    a standard by which something can be measured or judged
    “his painting sets the benchmark of quality”
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    type of:
    criterion, measure, standard, touchstone
    a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated
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