13

Let's say I have the next array of 9 numbers: 1, 2, 2, 4, 2, 2, 3, 2, 1.
I want to say that 2 has the highest frequency in the array. But I thought I could write this in one word. I also thought of "2 is the most frequent". Which is the best way to say that a number is the most frequent in an array?

  • thisnumberisthemostfrequent. – Carl Witthoft May 23 '17 at 19:13
63

Two is the most frequent (spelled frequent) sounds fine to me. Alternatively, you could write something like

The number two is the most frequent value in the given array.

I think the "one word" you are looking for is mode. It is mathematical terminology.

In the given array, two is the mode.

  • mode
    The mode is the value that appears most often in a set of data.
    (Wikipedia)
  • 18
    Yes, any of the other answers given are fine in regular conversation. BUT for writing up mathematics or statistics (which I would expect when talking about an array of numbers), mode is clearly the correct answer. It might be confusing in casual conversation, but would be the expected term in an academic paper. The adjectival form of the word is also often used in this kind of context, e.g. The modal result was 2. – 1006a May 22 '17 at 16:37
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"Most frequent" seems reasonable to me. If you really need a single word for some reason, you could choose commonest:

commonest

superlative form of common: most common.

common

Occurring or happening regularly or frequently; usual.


For a mathematically-rigorous word, you should use mode:

mode

(statistics) The most frequently occurring value in a distribution.

  • 10
    Funny, commonest really sounds like the gramatically incorrect version of "most common" like "bestest" but i guess it's a word – cat May 22 '17 at 11:35
  • 2
    @cat I completely agree, perhaps one shouldn't use 'commonest' despite it being a true word for this very reason. – Alexander Craggs May 22 '17 at 20:01
  • +1 for "mode." Dunno about "commonest"... "Most common" sounds more natural to my ears. – jpmc26 May 22 '17 at 21:44
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    Some dialects prefer "commoner" and "commonest". Some dialects prefer "more common" and "most common". Neither is wrong. – Dawood says reinstate Monica May 23 '17 at 5:52
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    In Br.E "commonest" sounds fine, but "commoner" is (cough) less common - since it also means "a person who is not a member of the aristocracy". On the other hand "uncommonest" is not so common. "Least common" would often be a better alternative than "most uncommon". – alephzero May 24 '17 at 2:09
3

Some more suitable words: Predominant, Preponderant, Principal. All can be used to mean "most frequent", and are better known than "mode" (which is rarely if ever used by anyone who isn't a mathematician) while also sounding more professional than something like "commonest".

E.g. "The preponderant number is 2".

  • 5
    Did you mean principal rather than principle? – Toby Speight May 22 '17 at 15:56
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    I wouldn't expect any of these words to show up in common speech with this meaning. Maybe in very technical speech where the term is commonly used in the field (in which case the OP or their colleagues would probably already know it and asking here would be unnecessary), but none are commonly used generically. E.g., the only reason I've ever encountered "preponderance" is because it's used in GIS to describe the greatest intersection area of geometries. Dumping a thesaurus word when you don't understand its usage never sounds professional. – jpmc26 May 22 '17 at 21:46
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    Principal and preponderant both seem wrong to me here (and principle seems misspelt). You could use predominant, maybe, but I'd stick with calling the mode the mode. – Dawood says reinstate Monica May 23 '17 at 5:55
  • @jpmc26 I pretty much agree with you. I would still say that "mode" is worse though - I can think of 3 meanings for it just offhand, and I figure if I'm going to use an uncommon word, it might as well be one with an unambiguous meaning! – Benubird Jun 1 '17 at 15:29
2

You could say "prevalent" or "abound"

For arrays the fixed phrase "most frequent value" is widely used. In mathematics the term "mode" is common. Here's a good explanation of what a mode is - Most frequent values in array.

1

As the question mentions an array of numbers, seems to me mode is absolutely the correct answer (and had I got here quicker I think that would have been my one-word answer).

This used to be taught at primary level in the UK (until 2015), so not obscure terminology :)

protected by J.R. May 23 '17 at 9:14

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