A parameter is a limit. In mathematics a parameter is a constant in an equation, but parameter isn’t just for math anymore: now any system can have parameters that define its operation. You can set parameters for your class debate.

Parameter comes from a combination of the Greek word para-, meaning “beside,” and metron, meaning “measure.” The natural world sets certain parameters, like gravity and time. In court, the law defines the parameters of legal behavior. Parameter and perimeter are similar, but a perimeter is the physical distance around an object, while a parameter can contain or define something either physically or abstractly.

Definitions of parameter
  1. noun
    a constant in the equation of a curve that can be varied to yield a family of similar curves
    synonyms: parametric quantity
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    degree of freedom
    one of the minimum number of parameters needed to describe the state of a physical system
    type of:
    constant, constant quantity, invariable
    a quantity that does not vary
  2. noun
    any factor that defines a system and determines (or limits) its performance
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    type of:
    anything that contributes causally to a result
  3. noun
    (computer science) a reference or value that is passed to a function, procedure, subroutine, command, or program
    synonyms: argument
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    type of:
    a numerical quantity measured or assigned or computed
    address, computer address, reference
    (computer science) the code that identifies where a piece of information is stored
  4. noun
    a quantity (such as the mean or variance) that characterizes a statistical population and that can be estimated by calculations from sample data
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    type of:
    the concept that something has a magnitude and can be represented in mathematical expressions by a constant or a variable
Commonly confused words

parameter / perimeter

Parameter is a limit that affects how something can be done, and perimeter is the outline of a physical area. Both words have special meanings in math, but they take off their pocket protectors and relax their definitions when they join the rest of us.

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