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I need to ask a user to request either a minimum or maximum value. What would be the appropriate label for this? I have considered extremum but I am not sure if this is commonly understood or appropriate.

Example: Is the user interested in a companies lowest or highest stock price over the last 6 months? They will have the option of choosing 'min' or 'max'.

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What is the context, the English language is so context orientated that without that it is hard to offer a suggestion. –  Lazarus Jul 19 '11 at 11:40
    
Extremum is certainly correct; whether your audience will understand it is another question. My own preference is to push it -- most times, the meaning can be guessed from context (especially an obvious word like "extremum") and if they have to go to a dictionary, well, it probably won't kill them. –  Malvolio Jul 20 '11 at 1:40
    
Oh, and @Lazarus, there's no context (afaik) where "orientated" is a real word (what would it be, the part-participle of the nonexistent verb "orientate"?) Orient is a lovely word, it means literally "towards the rising sun", from orior, "to rise" and its past-participle is "oriented". –  Malvolio Jul 20 '11 at 1:45
    
@Lazarus I have added an example. –  row1 Jul 20 '11 at 1:45
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@Malvolio : orientated is a perfectly acceptable variant on oriented and was the variant I was taught to use, being the more popular in the UK at that time. –  Lazarus Jul 27 '11 at 11:19

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Mathematicians call this either an extremum (plural extrema) or extreme value. But as you say, this is unlikely to be understood by non-technical users. I doubt that there is a better term for it, however, since mathematicians would probably not have come up with a special word for this if there was an ordinary English word or short phrase that meant the same thing.

I would recommend you just use "maximum or minimum value".

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You could refer to the bounds of the range. From NOAD:

bound 2
noun (often bounds)
a territorial limit; a boundary : the ancient bounds of the forest.
• a limitation or restriction on feeling or action : it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the issue could arise again | enthusiasm to join the union knew no bounds.
technical a limiting value.

The "limiting" value can refer to the upper or lower limit.

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I am not sure about about bound by itself since it has non-technical meanings. Perhaps adding aggregate to the end would make my intentions clearer e.g. bounds aggregate or limit aggregate. –  row1 Jul 19 '11 at 9:33
    
Maximum is a bound, minimum is a bound, together they form the bounds of whatever is being bounded. There's no need for aggregate. –  Lazarus Jul 19 '11 at 11:38
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Commonly speaking, I think "limit" or "range" would be more generally understood than "bounds". –  chaiguy Jul 19 '11 at 17:04

A word that can replace both maximum and minimum and be understood correctly in context is

optimum

"The optimum score in golf is 18, from a hole-in-one on every hole."

"The optimum score in darts is 180, all three darts in the triple score area of 20."

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I believe optimum means the best possible. Even in your example, I don't think it denotes the minimum value. –  rest_day Jul 19 '11 at 22:31
    
@rest_day: ok but then what is the optimum score in golf? –  Mitch Jul 19 '11 at 23:44
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I do not follow golf, so I did not know that in golf the player with lowest point wins. But what I meant in my comment was that optimum cannot be used to denote both maximum and minimum at the same time, as the OP asked. –  rest_day Jul 20 '11 at 0:03
    
The optimum in darts is 180, and not 0. The two extrema in darts are 0 and 180. As @rest_day says, it doesn't mean the same thing. –  Peter Shor Jul 20 '11 at 0:18
    
I read the OP saying "either minimum or maximum" as one or the other, only one at a time (as in my two examples). If the OP is asking for -both- at the same time, then extrema is correct. –  Mitch Jul 20 '11 at 0:51

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