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This analogy may not be quite accurate but I think I can get my point across with it.

I was reviewing some obesity statistics:

  • Obese: 35.9%
  • Overweight but not obese: 33.3%
  • Neither overweight nor obese: 30.8%

There is no majority. "Obesity" is the plurality. Is there a specific term for "neither overweight nor obese" as the smallest minority?

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3  
I don't think your definition of plurality (the largest of several contingents, none of which constitutes an actual majority) would be generally understood in the UK. –  FumbleFingers Jan 31 '13 at 0:11
    
I'm more familiar with relative majority as opposed to absolute or outright majority. –  coleopterist Jan 31 '13 at 4:00
2  
Also, "asparagus" is to "calculus" as "Brazil" is to what? –  Jay Jan 31 '13 at 4:28
    
In politics, it's "the also rans". I don't know about fat people, though. –  Jim Jan 31 '13 at 5:16

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I think the trouble here is that it isn't '“Majority” to “plurality.”' In discussing proportions, majority is the counterpart to minority; the whole is divided into two unequal parts, and thus one part is greater than half and the other smaller. If a majority exists, by definition no plurality can exist. At the same time, one can view a plurality as simply the "first among minorities," the largest among various fractions that do not muster 50%.

One would need to employ a phrase to describe a proportion which is neither a majority nor a plurality. The part of the population which is neither overweight nor obese could be the smallest proportion of the population, or the least fraction or the littlest part, or some such formulation.

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I think there is a problem with the way you have structured the concept. Plurality, as you use it, is usually defined by most online dictionaries in political terms

the number of votes that a politician or party gets in an election that is more than any other but is less than an absolute majority

It is determined based on two disjunctive characteristics:

  • largest single group, but
  • not a majority

The smallest minority is just that - the smallest group. There is not another characteristic that makes it analogous to plurality.

In fact, the term minority itself poses a problem. It is generally defined in the context of two groups

the smaller in number of two groups constituting a whole; specifically: a group having less than the number of votes necessary for control

Further, the term minority can encompass more than one group when there are more than three categories. Which of those (or which combination of those) is of interest depends on the context of the categorization. In social situations, there are often a number of minorities identified based on a variety of characteristics differing from the majority. Further, a number of political or social minorities may coalesce to form a plurality.

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You would have to describe what relationship you see between "majority" and "plurality" before you could say what the corresponding word is for "minority".

Normally we say that the opposite of "majority" is "minority", not "plurality". The only way I can see to relate majority and plurality is to say that a majority is the largest group or block and is over 50%, while a plurality is the largest group or block and is under 50%. But to make a similar relationship with "minority" ... what? It's meaningless to talk about a minorities that are over 50% and those that are under 50%. If you're over 50% you're not a minority.

If you're looking for a word that means "the smallest minority", hmm, I don't know any single word for that. If there is one, I don't think it's widely used. I think the simplest thing to do is simply call it "the smallest group".

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The answer is, I guess, singularity.

EDIT: I accidentally considered only the title question. Now having read your entire post, it seems to me that your definition of "plurality" (= manyhood, multitude) is not correct. There is no specific term I know of which means "largest group (but not majority)", nor for the opposite (smallest group). So, as far as the terms I know are concerned, you'll have to settle for "largest group"/"largest fraction" and "smallest group"/"smallest faction".

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No fear, though. You're still a GoodCommunist! –  Jim Jan 31 '13 at 5:21

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