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In the page of 'odds' in vocabulary.com, there's such a paragraph,

When we talk about odds, we're talking about probabilities, specifically, how likely it is that something will happen. Is there a 5% chance? Is there a 95% chance? If there's a 95% chance, then the odds are great.

If the odds of something bad or unwanted are, say, 95%, is it weird to say, 'the odds are great'? 'Great' sounds like you favor the result.

Some situations may make it embarrassing to use 'great', I think? Say, someone describes some forebodings to you and ask you the odds of that bad thing. You then say, 'the odds are great'. Can this actually imply schadenfreude? Isn't this awkward? Will that person think you are gloating?

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    I think great is used here in the sense 'very large', not the informal meaning 'very good'. Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 12:01
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    Because of the potential ambiguity to which @KateBunting points I would suggest large would be better here.
    – mdewey
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 16:03
  • @mdewey I just added an elaborate situation in the question.
    – Michael
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 16:17
  • Saying, The odds were great, is not common. Regardless of the overall odds, for example 95 to 1, you would be more likely to hear, The odds were good/very good. The odds were great, sounds weirder and weirder the more I say it. That being said you can use any adjective to describe good odds.
    – EllieK
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 16:31
  • Generally, we would say: the odds are good that [some thing will happen]. We don't generally place it at the end of the utterance. That said, just about anything can be said to be great, slang or not.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 16:32

3 Answers 3

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Though it's grammatically correct, I would never say, "The odds are great" in that context. In fact, because of the double meaning of "great", I might say the opposite:

A: This type of cancer kills 95% of people who get it.
B: Wow. Those aren't great odds.

It's understood that I'm now speaking about the 5% chance of survival, rather than the 95% chance of death. Phrased this way, the two meanings of "great" work together: clearly, having a 5% chance of surviving cancer is a not great situation, and mathematically, 5% odds are not great.

One way to use "great" that makes it clear it doesn't express an opinion about the odds is to use it as an adverb:

The odds are greatly against your survival.

This unambiguously refers to the size of the odds, rather than my opinion about the situation.

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“The odds are great” is problematic in this case. “The odds of dying from this cancer are high” is a better sentence (obviously not one you want to hear). “The odds of dying from this cancer are good” is about as problematic as the original. “The odds are bad” is slightly more pointing at a bad outcome, but “odds are high” seems best.

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'The odds' are just one way of expressing the chance, or probability that something will happen, good or bad. You could talk about the odds of winning the lottery, or the odds of an earthquake happening. But 'odds' are expressed differently from 'chance' and 'probability'. Odds are normally expressed like a ratio (eg 100:1), not a percentage as in your question.

A high probability, or a high chance, would mean that something is likely to happen. But 'high odds' means the opposite - that the chances against are high. The term 'odds' is predominantly used in gambling. High odds in gambling mean that the chances of winning are low, but in certain kinds of betting the payout would be higher as a result.

"Generally, the term high odds means that an outcome is less likely to happen. On the flip side, some players build their strategy on big prices, chasing better payouts." - Bookmakers

Although one might say that odds are "good" if they are favourable towards whatever it is you would wish to happen, don't confuse the word "great" with this. While "great" can mean good, in mathematics it means high. So, if someone said "the odds are great" that would idiomatically mean they were high, so the associated event is less likely to happen.

In your question you use percentages of chance, which, as I stated, are not the same. A 'high percentage chance' of something happening would mean that it is likely. You could still refer to the odds alongside the chance, but don't confuse the terminology between the two.

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