Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In German we have the pretty common term Ausschlussverfahren for this, especially used as a line of reasoning when solving a puzzle/problem. Linguee gives out several options, but imho no coherent and representative term/phrase, I would trust. Process of elimination sounds awkward to me, but seems much more common than terms I thought of, like exclusion method.

Which terms/phrases do you know matching the meaning in the title?

share|improve this question
1  
By the way, the style of game where the winner is chosen by eliminating all the other players is called "last man standing". Thought you might find that a useful, related phrase. –  kojiro Nov 24 '11 at 14:23
add comment

6 Answers

up vote 35 down vote accepted

The phrase Process of elimination is quite normal to native English-speakers, I think the meaning of what you want would be understood perfectly with this phrase. Was there a particular sentence you wanted to use with this word/phrase, which you found awkward?

share|improve this answer
    
… and is also the first translation offered by Google Translate in preference to exclusion procedure, exclusion methods, exclusion method, and expulsion procedure. –  MετάEd Nov 23 '11 at 20:53
2  
Hauser, maybe the term will look a bit more natural to you when you consider it in a sentence. For example: "A process of elimination was used to determine the correct answer." or "We arrived at the solution through a process of elimination". Also note that the process of elimination is used in deductive reasoning so there may be contexts where you would prefer to use "deductive reasoning" over "process of elimination". –  Bjorn Nov 23 '11 at 21:02
    
It didn't sound like a fixed common term to me, more like a constructed phrase concerning a real-world process (e.g. exclusion of a person from a party), as there were so many alternatives on linguee. I want to use it as a special line of reasoning. I think procedure/method would fit here much better, but the majority already ruled ;) –  Hauser Nov 23 '11 at 21:40
1  
+1. In my experience, this phrasing is very frequently used as the whole construct "by process of elimination". E.g. "By process of elimination, we know X" (when all alternatives to X have been eliminated). –  jprete Nov 23 '11 at 22:13
1  
@FrustratedWithFormsDesigner :) the problem is more that in German you don't use a "Prozess" (german for process, this phrase doesn't exist), you can use a method, a procedure, a technique, but a process is more a phenomenological description of something somebody does, a group of people or a natural/technological phenomenon you describe as "process of"... method/technique/procedure (also listed in linguee) make much more sense to me in this context of a distinct line of reasoning. Process is quite often used for describing bio./physical phenomenons –  Hauser Nov 23 '11 at 22:16
show 3 more comments

In the field of medicine, I have heard this called ruling out (general form: to rule (something) out).

Examples:

A doctor would run through a series of tests, ruling out a number of incorrect diagnoses, and would be left with the correct diagnosis.
        —Validity of a Set of Clinical Criteria to Rule Out Injury to the Cervical Spine in Patients with Blunt Trauma

share|improve this answer
2  
It's not "the rule out." "Rule out" is a verb, and so to use it as a noun, you use the gerund form, "ruling out." –  jwodder Nov 23 '11 at 21:39
    
In speaking to one another, I have heard medical professionals call this framework of thinking an algorithm or the Rule-out hypothesis. It may be more grammatical to say Ruling out; however, there are many English expressions that are not grammatical. –  rajah9 Nov 24 '11 at 14:03
add comment

Another idiomatic English phrase which could fit is trial and error though this can imply some naivety or randomness in the selection of possible solutions

share|improve this answer
add comment

Another term used in medicine is differential diagnosis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Differential_diagnosis

share|improve this answer
add comment

What about 'winnowing' as a more poetic option?

share|improve this answer
add comment

'Filtering off the wrong solutions'. You think this sounds better?

share|improve this answer
add comment

protected by RegDwigнt Aug 19 '12 at 15:04

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.