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What is the difference between output and outcome? Please suggest the proper usage.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Output is usually used to measure the rate of something. It is often used when talking about energy/power created.

Outcome is the result of an action. The outcome of a fight, for example might be a couple of black eyes.

To try to put these into one context:

This book was the outcome of three years solitude and constant work from the author.

The author has an incredible output, having released 5 books this year and 6 last year.


The outcome of increasing the machine's printing speed was a much higher output.

Here, by increasing the speed, the engineers have improved the efficiency of their machine.

Hope this helps.

N.B.: It has been pointed out in the comments that output can also be the result of running a process in some computer applications and data processing.

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I think you are using an incorrect definition of output. From en.wiktionary.org/wiki/output : "production; quantity produced, created, or completed." – apoorv020 Apr 6 '11 at 18:50
I think a better phrasing would be that output is the term used when you can easily quantify things, especially when dealing with some kind of scientific or technical process (e.g. "The output of the plant is 5 million barrels per day"). Outcome is used with more intangible processes – apoorv020 Apr 6 '11 at 18:58
The definition of outcome is ambiguous. In informatics, for instance, the output of a program is the result of running it. – nico Apr 6 '11 at 20:24
@apoorv020, both of your replies suggest rate, as I mentioned in my post: "Production; quantity produced..." and then "5 million barrels per day" – Karl Apr 6 '11 at 23:18
@nico - I hadn't considered that. I think output can be the result of some database searches as well, right? Still, it's specific enough to be called jargon, I would say. I'll make an edit, though. – Karl Apr 6 '11 at 23:20

The output from a process is what comes out as a result, while the outcome of a process is what's changed by it (including any output being produced).

The process of drilling a hole for example doesn't really have any output, but the outcome is that there is a hole.

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Your definition of outcome seems off, judging according to en.wiktionary.org/wiki/outcome - "Information, event, object or state of being produced as a result or consequence of a plan, process, accident, effort or other similar action or occurrence." – apoorv020 Apr 6 '11 at 18:53
@apoorv020: Yes, the outcome will of course also include changes like producing an output. I clarified this in the answer. – Guffa Apr 6 '11 at 20:17

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