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A graph, a chart, and a plot can all refer to the same thing. Is there any even somewhat consistent distinction in these three words?

(I mean, in this particular sense of the words; it is not relevant that a chart is also a nautical map, and a plot is also a scheme.)

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If you're happy to say they can all refer to the same thing, surely it doesn't make sense to ask us to tell you why you're mistaken. You presumably learnt to accept these words as potential synonyms by noticing how they are used, so it should be obvious there can't possibly be a reliable distinction. If there is a potential distinction, people ignore it anyway, so it wouldn't be reliable. –  FumbleFingers Sep 23 '11 at 12:35
@FumbleFingers that takes the prize for "Most Barely Comprehensible Rant". Thus far. –  JeffSahol Sep 23 '11 at 13:05
Notwithstanding my comment above, I didn't vote to close. It's true each term can be looked up individually, but dictionaries are not usually good at explaining the subtleties of distinction between overlapping meanings such as this. –  FumbleFingers Sep 23 '11 at 13:12
@Jeff: It wasn't intended as a rant. I think the question is perfectly okay apart from the fact that OP asks for a reliable distinction. Clearly this is a case where there is overlap, as Guffa's excellent answer points out. –  FumbleFingers Sep 23 '11 at 13:14
@FumbleFingers Nor was my comment intended seriously. I was amused by you comment, that's all. All he had to do was drop the word "reliable" to avoid that particular pitfall. I have learned to be very careful in word choice and phrasing on anything I post here. I am not voting to close, either, by the way. –  JeffSahol Sep 23 '11 at 13:21

3 Answers 3

The terms partly overlap, at least if they are used somewhat loosely, and in that overlap there isn't really any difference.

A graph is a diagram of a mathematical function, but can also be used (loosely) about a diagram of statistical data.

A chart is a graphic representation of data, where a line chart is one form.

A plot is the result of plotting statistics as a diagram in different ways, where some of the ways are similar to some chart types.

So, a line chart could be called a graph or a plot, while a pie chart is neither a graph nor a plot. A scatterplot is a chart but not (strictly) a graph, but the purpose of a scatterplot is to determine if there is some relation that can be expressed as a function that then naturally can be drawn as a graph.

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Perhaps some enterprising soul here on EL&U might care to make a Venn diagram of these three words, with each word represented by a circle with diameter proportional to its relative frequency of use in the context of diagrams. It might be interesting to debate where the circles overlap, and what kind of diagrams fall into each overlapping area. Specifically, the position of that chart itself! :) –  FumbleFingers Sep 23 '11 at 13:08

A plot would apply to line charts, with plotted points. A chart could arrange the data in columns, rows, pie shapes, etc., and plots. Graphs are synonymous with charts, though i would reserve "chart" for more plain depictions and call data arranged in columns of kittens "graphs" (though that's just my style choice).

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I'm intrigued. What are columns of kittens? –  FumbleFingers Sep 23 '11 at 12:56
@FumbleFingers my guess is that it would be something you would find at graphjam.memebase.com –  JeffSahol Sep 23 '11 at 13:03
@Jeff: I did a search for "kittens" there, but it didn't have any. Are you thinking of those spam emails that say "Send me money, or I'll drown a kitten?". Which presumably could have an attached chart showing how many kittens the spammer has drowned recently because people failed to cough up. –  FumbleFingers Sep 23 '11 at 13:19
@FumbleFingers No, I was just guessing about that site. But a quick google search did turn up this gem: xkcd.com/231 –  JeffSahol Sep 23 '11 at 13:26

graphs are, points of x-axis and y-axis points were selected with the appropriate data and gives actual picture of event but chart were not actual values of x-axis and y-axis,simply represents wave forms of a event.

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Very confusing. Poor grammar does not help, I do not even know where to begin fixing it. –  theUg Feb 12 '13 at 2:10

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