I found this use of the word «degree» in a sentence of a contemporary American novel. A woman looks discouraged at her old and shabby kitchen. I understand everything except how to interpret the word «degrees». It cannot refer to temperature, because 40° F is too low for the oven to overheat, and the woman lives in Texas where the weather is definitely not cold! What does it mean?

She looked at the cracks in the old subway tile on the counter and the oven that was off by forty degrees. The leaky faucet and sticky drawers.

1 Answer 1


I think it does refer to temperature. The thermostat on the oven was inaccurate by a margin of 40 degrees - that is, the actual temperature was either that much lower or that much higher than the one selected.

  • 2
    It might also mean that the oven's position was off by 40 degrees (unit of angle measure). But I think that your interpretation is more likely. Nov 10, 2022 at 17:13
  • Yes, I think it makes sense
    – Cicc
    Nov 10, 2022 at 17:25
  • I would wonder how she knew that the oven was 'off' by that amount. Nov 10, 2022 at 20:22
  • @MichaelHarvey Well, I know that my oven is off by about 15 degrees, because I have an oven thermometer in there (and I also knew before I bought the thermometer, because everything I baked took longer than instructed, until I started raising the temperature by 15 degrees over what was recommended each time)
    – Esther
    Nov 11, 2022 at 4:38

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