English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Economist Bryan Caplan asks:

What's a good word for "true-on-average"?

Can we help him out?

share|improve this question

closed as not a real question by Mitch, simchona, FumbleFingers, Matt E. Эллен, RegDwigнt Apr 19 '12 at 13:29

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

What's the context? Oh...twitter... what's wrong with the suggestions there? Stereotypical? A lie? How about 'the average'? – Mitch Apr 13 '12 at 18:57
Ooo! Let's make up a new word: truverage! :P – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Apr 13 '12 at 19:49
I have trouble wrapping my head around this. Since we only have two values, 1 and 0, nothing in between, that kind of contradicts the whole concept of "average". So I can only suppose we are rounding up. But then "true on average" would encompass everything from "true in 100% of cases" to "true in 50.000000000...01% of cases" (or in short, "true in 50+x% of cases for any x in (0, 50]"). Which is way too broad to be useful at all. Really, we need a clear definition first. Or at least some context. – RegDwigнt Apr 13 '12 at 22:04
To best answer this, it would be helpful to have either context, or a definition of "on average". – Ben Lee Apr 13 '12 at 23:08
"Generally true" is a simple phrase you can use here – Joe Blow May 21 '14 at 8:22

According to the Macmillan Dictionary, the phrase on average is already

used for talking about what is usually true, although it may not be true in every individual situation

So the phrase true on average is already concise and idiomatic (and perhaps even redundant), and there's not much to be gained by trying to express it in a single word.

share|improve this answer

All of the words I first thought of (typically, generally, ordinarily, and usually) are somewhat stronger than "true on average", but might serve your purpose anyway.

share|improve this answer
Like Reg, I have some problems with "true on average", but I think this is what it is supposed to mean. – Cerberus Apr 13 '12 at 22:10
I'm not so sure. Typically, generally, ordinarily, and usually are only substitutes for the "on average" part — and stronger substitutes at that, as you note yourself. They do not include the "true" part in any way, shape, form or manner. Something can still be typically wrong, or generally untrue, or usually false. – RegDwigнt Apr 13 '12 at 22:15

How about "probable"? It means something is more likely to be true than false.

share|improve this answer
Not necessarily -- eg weather people often refer to rain as probable when the likelihood is 30 to 40%. – jwpat7 Apr 13 '12 at 20:32
@jwpat7 in that case they should be educated on the meaning of the word. Although I can sort of understand their motivation - imagine how much more flak they would get if people got soaked after being told 40% rain was, in fact, improbable. – kotekzot Apr 13 '12 at 20:34
Weather people do not refer to rain as probable when it's 40%. – Joe Blow May 21 '14 at 8:23

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