Percentage point--missed word in dictionaries

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Wed Dec 26 19:51:16 UTC 2001

I'm sorry for dropping out of this thread after having started it...

I originally posted this from a different list and the original
poster didn't explain in any further detail why he thought
percentage point has been missed.

Looking at my AHD3 (sorry, it's the only monolingual English
dictionary I have), point seems to work for this compound as in

20. A single unit, as in counting, rating or measuring.

Percentage, though, seems quite a bit less clear:

1.a. A fraction or ratio with 100 understood as the denominator; for
example, 0.98 equals a percentage of 98.

b. The result obtained by multiplying a quantity by a percent. 2. A
proportion or share in relation to a whole; a part: The hecklers
constituted only a small percentage of the audience...

While point has another definition that gets close,

23.a. A unit equal to one dollar, used to quote or state variations
in the current prices of stocks or commodities.

b. A unit equal to one percent, used to quote or state interest
rates or shares in gross profits.

it seems that the meaning of "percentage point" would not be
transparent if the reader found these definitions.

Benjamin Barrett
gogaku at

P.S. I have blind cced this back to the original poster as well :)

> -----Original Message-----
> Sent: Friday, December 21, 2001 8:35 PM
> Dictionaries, by definition, deal primarily with
> individual words and with
> strings of words whose meaning is not simply the sum of
> their constituent
> parts (idiomatic phrases, open compounds).  Transparent
> noun phrases are not
> normally included.  I am assuming that 'percentage point'
> is a transparent
> noun phrase, meaning one point of percentage: e.g. 17
> percentage points = 17
> per cent. <snip>
> Victoria Neufeldt

> > -----Original Message-----

> I've observed that dictionaries often do a poor job in defining
> phrases, as
> opposed to individual words. That may be because there are so
> many phrases,
> the meanings of which can often be deduced from their components.
> example, in AHD you can look up percentage, and you can look up
point (one
> meaning -- "a single unit, as in counting, rating or
measuring") -- and
> pretty much understand what a percentage point is.

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