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Alternative forms[edit]


1580s; From mathematic (noun) +‎ -ics,[1] from Middle English mathematique, methametik, matematik, matamatik, from Old French mathematique, from Latin mathēmatica (mathematics), from Ancient Greek μαθηματικός (mathēmatikós, on the matter of that which is learned), from μάθημα (máthēma, knowledge, study, learning). Displaced native Old English rīmcræft.



mathematics (uncountable)

  1. An abstract representational system studying numbers, shapes, structures, quantitative change and relationships between them.
    • 1992 March 2, Richard Preston, “The Mountains of Pi”, in The New Yorker:
      Looking at the Leibniz series, you feel the independence of mathematics from human culture. Surely, on any world that knows pi the Leibniz series will also be known... Nilakantha, an astronomer, grammarian, and mathematician who lived on the Kerala coast of India, described the formula in Sanskrit poetry around the year 1500.
    • 2002, Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice?: The New Mathematics of Chaos, page 38:
      The answer is 'yes', and the mathematics needed is the theory of probability and its applied cousin, statistics.
  2. A person's ability to count, calculate, and use different systems of mathematics at differing levels.
    My mathematics is always improving.

Usage notes[edit]

The term mathematics was previously seen as a plural, but this usage is largely obsolete.

  • “... Artificers, to whom the Practical Mathematics are of great and immediate Uſe.” A System of Practical Mathematics — John Potter, 1753.
  • “Mathematics are based on arithmatic[sic], algebra and geometry, and are either pure or mixed.” — The teacher’s assistant in the “Course of mathematics adapted to the method of instruction in the American colleges” - Jeremiah Day, 1836.
  • “Now the mathematics are peculiarly well adapted for this purpose, ... ”. Library of Useful Knowledge - Mathematics - Baldwin and Cradock, London, 1836.
  • "Mathematics are also distinguished into Theoretical, or Speculative, and Practical, ..." A new and easy Introduction to the Mathematics — Ira Wanzer, 1831.

However, when used in the sense of the mathematical rules and formulas used to model some specific field or phenomenon, the term can also be used today as a grammatical plural.

  • “Many exact and approximate results have been obtained from this theory, but the mathematics of QCD are quite difficult, and many questions remain.” Physics — Joseph W. Kane & Morton M. Sternheim, 1984.
  • ”The mathematics are the same as the actuarial liability under the constant dollar version of the benefit prorate actuarial cost method.“ Pension Mathematics with Numerical Illustrations — Howard E. Winklevoss, 1993.
  • “Some authors provide plots and tables that may have limitations where the mathematics break down.” Electromagnetic Compatibility — Donald G. Baker, 2015.


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


  • Scottish Gaelic: matamataig, matamataic
  • Welsh: mathemateg


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “mathematics”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.

Further reading[edit]