AskDefine | Define median

Dictionary Definition

median adj
1 relating to or constituting the middle value of an ordered set of values (or the average of the middle two in an even-numbered set); "the median value of 17, 20, and 36 is 20"; "the median income for the year was $15,000" [syn: median(a), average]
2 dividing an animal into right and left halves [syn: medial]
3 relating to or situated in or extending toward the middle [syn: medial] n : the value below which 50% of the cases fall [syn: median value]

User Contributed Dictionary



From médian.


  1. The measure of central tendency of a set of values computed by ordering the values and taking the value at position ( + 1) / 2 when is odd or the arithmetic mean of the values at positions / 2 and ( / 2) + 1 when is even.
  2. The area separating two lanes of opposite-direction traffic in the United States. This area is often covered with vegetation, but also may be covered in concrete and possess traffic accident safety devices such as guardrails.
  3. The middlemost marquee of the body that divides the subject in a symmetrical fashion, such as a median sagittal section', which divides the body symmetrically on a vertical plane, as opposed to a 'parasagittal section', which is a vertical cross section that does not divide on a parallel symmetrical alignment.


statistics: measure of central tendency
the area separating two lanes of opposite-direction traffic in the United States
anatomy: the middlemost marquee of the body that divides the subject in a symmetrical fashion


  1. Having the median as its value.


having the median as its value

Related terms

See also



  1. ; environmental





Extensive Definition

In probability theory and statistics, a median is described as the number separating the higher half of a sample, a population, or a probability distribution, from the lower half. The median of a finite list of numbers can be found by arranging all the observations from lowest value to highest value and picking the middle one. If there is an even number of observations, the median is not unique, so one often takes the mean of the two middle values. At most half the population have values less than the median and at most half have values greater than the median. If both groups contain less than half the population, then some of the population is exactly equal to the median. For example, if a < b < c, then the median of the list is b, and if a < b < c < d, then the median of the list is the mean of b and c, i.e. it is (b + c)/2.


The median of some variable x\,\! is denoted either as \tilde\,\! or as \mu_(x).\,\!

Popular explanation

The difference between the median and the mean is illustrated in this simple example:
Suppose 19 paupers and 1 billionaire are in a room. Everyone removes all the money from their pockets and puts it on a table. Each pauper puts $5 on the table; the billionaire puts $1 billion (i.e. $109) there. The total is then $1,000,000,095. If that money is divided equally among the 20 people, each gets $50,000,004.75. That amount is the mean amount of money that the 20 people brought into the room. But the median amount is $5, since one may divide the group into two groups of 10 people each, and say that everyone in the first group brought in no more than $5, and each person in the second group brought in no less than $5. In a sense, the median is the amount that the typical person brought in. By contrast, the mean is not at all typical, since nobody in the room brought in an amount approximating $50,000,004.75.

Measures of statistical dispersion

When the median is used as a location parameter in descriptive statistics, there are several choices for a measure of variability: the range, the interquartile range, the mean absolute deviation, and the median absolute deviation. Since the median is the same as the second quartile, its calculation is illustrated in the article on quartiles.
Working with computers, a population of integers should have an integer median. Thus, for an integer population with an even number of elements, there are two medians known as lower median and upper median. For floating point population, the median lies somewhere between the two middle elements, depending on the distribution. Median is the middle most value after arranging data by any order

Medians of probability distributions

For any probability distribution on the real line with cumulative distribution function F, regardless of whether it is any kind of continuous probability distribution, in particular an absolutely continuous distribution (and therefore has a probability density function), or a discrete probability distribution, a median m satisfies the inequalities
\operatorname(X\leq m) \geq \frac \quad\and\quad \operatorname(X\geq m) \geq \frac\,\!
\int_^m \mathrmF(x) \geq \frac \quad\and\quad \int_m^ \mathrmF(x) \geq \frac\,\!
in which a Riemann-Stieltjes integral is used. For an absolutely continuous probability distribution with probability density function f, we have
\operatorname(X\leq m) = \operatorname(X\geq m)=\int_^m f(x)\, \mathrmx=0.5.\,\!
Medians of particular distributions: The medians of certain types of distributions can be easily estimated from their parameters: The median of a normal distribution with mean μ and variance σ2 is μ. In fact, for a normal distribution, mean = median = mode. The median of a uniform distribution in the interval [a, b] is (a + b) / 2, which is also the mean. The median of a Cauchy distribution with location parameter x0 and scale parameter y is x0, the location parameter. The median of an exponential distribution with rate parameter \lambda is the natural log of 2 divided by the rate parameter: \ln 2 /\lambda. The median of a Weibull distribution with shape parameter k and scale parameter \lambda is \lambda (\ln 2)^.

Medians in descriptive statistics

The median is primarily used for skewed distributions, which it represents differently than the arithmetic mean. Consider the multiset . The median is 2 in this case, as is the mode, and it might be seen as a better indication of central tendency than the arithmetic mean of 3.166….
Calculation of medians is a popular technique in summary statistics and summarizing statistical data, since it is simple to understand and easy to calculate, while also giving a measure that is more robust in the presence of outlier values than is the mean.

Theoretical properties

An optimality property

The median is also the central point which minimizes the average of the absolute deviations; in the example above this would be (1 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 7) / 6 = 1.5 using the median, while it would be 1.944 using the mean. In the language of probability theory, the value of c that minimizes
is the median of the probability distribution of the random variable X. Note, however, that c is not always unique, and therefore not well defined in general.

An inequality relating means and medians

For continuous probability distributions, the difference between the median and the mean is less than or equal to one standard deviation. See an inequality on location and scale parameters.

Efficient computation

Even though sorting n items takes in general O(n log n) operations, by using a "divide and conquer" algorithm the median of n items can be computed with only O(n) operations (in fact, you can always find the k-th element of a list of values with this method; this is called the selection problem).

Easy explanation (Statistics)

As an example, we will calculate the median of the following population of numbers: 1, 5, 2, 8, 7.
Start by sorting the numbers: 1, 2, 5, 7, 8.
In this case, 5 is the median, because when the numbers are sorted, it is the middle number. If there is an even amount of numbers, the median is the arithmetic mean of the two middle numbers.

See also

median in Arabic: وسيط حسابي
median in Bulgarian: Медиана (статистика)
median in Catalan: Mediana
median in Czech: Medián
median in Danish: Median
median in German: Median
median in Estonian: Mediaan
median in Spanish: Mediana (estadística)
median in Esperanto: Mediano (statistiko)
median in Basque: Mediana
median in Persian: میانه (آمار)
median in French: Médiane (centre)
median in Galician: Mediana
median in Croatian: Mediana
median in Icelandic: Miðgildi
median in Italian: Mediana (statistica)
median in Hebrew: חציון
median in Lithuanian: Mediana
median in Hungarian: Medián
median in Dutch: Mediaan (statistiek)
median in Japanese: 中央値
median in Norwegian: Median
median in Polish: Mediana
median in Portuguese: Mediana (estatística)
median in Russian: Медиана (статистика)
median in Sicilian: Mediana
median in Simple English: Median
median in Slovak: Medián
median in Slovenian: Mediana
median in Serbian: Медијана (статистика)
median in Sundanese: Median
median in Finnish: Mediaani
median in Swedish: Median
median in Tamil: இடைநிலையளவு
median in Thai: มัธยฐาน
median in Vietnamese: Số trung vị
median in Tajik: Медиана
median in Turkish: Medyan
median in Chinese: 中位數

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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