Let’s discuss parameter vs. perimeter. A parameter is a limit affecting how something can be done. A perimeter is an outline of a physical area. Both words have a special meaning in math, but they take off their pocket protectors and soften their definitions when they join the rest of us.
Parameter is the more grandiloquent science and math word. In mathematics, a parameter is a measurable factor in a system. Besides mathematics, parameter is still a factor, characteristic, or property. It can also be a limit or a boundary.
Here are some examples:
That makes it the heaviest observed elemental particle yet uncovered but within the parameters set by the Standard Model.
“As hard as journalism is, at least there are parameters,” he said.
Ms. Emma Birch experimented with color within those parameters, assembling an upbeat show reflecting London’s wild, crazy fashion world.
In math, the perimeter is the boundary of a geometric figure. In mainstream language, it can limit any physical or material area, often one defended by an armed force: secure the perimeter! Here are some examples:
Police have set up a perimeter surrounding the house and blocked Avery Street because of safety concerns, Capt Mark Burns said.
The newest study finds fuel spill’s perimeter expanding.
Some linguistic snobs don’t like the parameter‘s definition of a border or limit when perimeter would do fine. According to Garner’s Modern American Usage, however, the use of parameter to mean boundary is “virtually universal” except by “die-hard snobs.” You can use parameter to mean boundary unless you write for such an audience (a math professor, perhaps).
When considering parameter vs. perimeter, keep in mind: The parameters of playing a game of hide-and-seek are not looking while you count and staying within the perimeter of the yard when you’re hiding.
Related: Learn the difference between Affect and Effect
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