I want to find the best word for a term in a paper I am writing.

An example:

We see that Xs with higher unavailability generally have more attractive amenities.

Here, I want to replace "unavailability" with a different term.

Some details:

In my paper, I am talking about a scalar value for each of several Xs.

I want to refer to it as making the X "less available" because the higher its value, the less likely it is that the X will be any given person's "choice set" (which, you can probably guess, refers to the set of things they can choose from).

I expect to have to use the word, or variations on it, many times in writing and presentation, so I hope to avoid using an awkward negation like "unavailable". It will also be convenient to have a noun form, analogous to "unavailability" but less awkward.

A more down-to-earth example (with bad terms in square brackets):

Workers are not free to work at any firm they wish. Some firms are growing, and therefore have more openings; while others set higher standards for the quality of potential hires. These two factors cannot be separated in the data, so I combine them into [an 'unavailability index'] for each firm. From the perspective of a worker, opportunities to move to firms with a higher values in this index are [less frequently available].

Sorry if that's too long, or still too abstract. I am strongly leaning towards @WS2's suggestion, which would replace the two sets of brackets with "a measure of scarcity" and "scarcer."

  • My best term after "unavailability" is "exclusivity," which is also rather long, but at least not a negation. "Limited" and "closed" carry mathematical overtones...
    – Frank
    Nov 3, 2013 at 6:48
  • 'Available' is also one of those words like 'unique' where some might contest whether it can exist in degrees. I suppose one can be available on Mondays but not on Tuesdays etc. But at any one moment isn't one either available or unavailable? Can one be partly available? I am wondering whether 'scarce' or 'scarcity' might be of any use. It is beloved of economists. It might help if you could give me an example of the sort of sentence you have in mind, using down to earth objects like apples and pears.
    – WS2
    Nov 3, 2013 at 7:49
  • @WS2 That's a good point about "availability" being binary; that bothered me for a long time, but somehow I forgot about it. I think "scarcity" is a great suggestion! I won't be here to reply to a comment or answer for a short while, but I think that is what I will go with. I have added a longer example that is (I think) about as concrete as I can make it. Thanks!
    – Frank
    Nov 3, 2013 at 8:11
  • Hmm, actually, I might need to go with something different (because, as you can see in my second example, I do not want to give the impression that all workers are affected in the same way by this measure...rather, higher "quality" potential hires have a better chance of being able to choose a firm), but you have answered the question as stated and brought up very useful points.
    – Frank
    Nov 3, 2013 at 8:16

2 Answers 2


When I find something has less availability than something else, I think it is scarcer. Scarcity is opposed to availability.


Availability does seem to be a yes/no word most of the time. For example, the following would elicit a yes/no answer.

What is your availability on Tuesday morning?

The word that has frequently been used in place of availability is accessibility.

  • We need to increase the accessibility of childcare to low-income parents.
  • The factory is a fire hazard, because workers have poor accessibility to emergency exits.
  • NASDAQ:GOOG is a very inaccessible stock due to its high price.
  • Accessibility is an important issue for physically disabled persons.

ac•ces•si•ble (ækˈsɛs ə bəl)
1. easy to approach, reach, enter, speak with, or use.
2. able to be used, entered, or reached.
3. obtainable; attainable: accessible evidence.
4. readily understandable.
5. open to the influence of (usu. fol. by to): accessible to bribery.
[1600–10; < Late Latin]
ac•ces`si•bil′i•ty, n.
ac•ces′si•bly, adv.

Another word, but mostly used in Systems engineering, is reachability. For example, we could have a flow-chart of various states of a system. An analyzer software could be used to analyse the reachability of each state. i.e., how easy/frequent it is to reach a particular state in the flow.

Another example is in computer programming codes, where a statement or section is analysed for its reachability - the circumstances that would allow or preclude a statement from being executed.

I can think of another word - attainability. Which is sometimes used in place of reachability of a state.

What you are looking is for a continuum of availability, like possibility. In Statistics and Physics, we use the words potential and probability density.

Therefore, if you don't like all the words I have laid out, you could still consider

  • potential of availability
  • tendency of availability
  • probability of availability
  • frequency of availability
  • density of availability
  • +1. Thanks for the answer. I cannot use those terms you suggest at the end, since it would be somewhat inaccurate for my case (where I talk about "it as making the X "less available" because the higher its value, the less likely it is that the X will be any given person's "choice set""). So, due to the convoluted nature of my model, it isn't itself a "probability"; rather, it is a scalar that is associated with less availability in a decision-theoretic model.
    – Frank
    Nov 3, 2013 at 15:02
  • (cont.) Besides, I strongly prefer a short term...and am actually looking for the negative form, so I think WS2's suggestion of "scarcity" is spot on.
    – Frank
    Nov 3, 2013 at 15:03
  • In Statistics, we say, lower/higher potential/tendency/probability/risk/frequency/density. They are established terms in business and Statistics that allow negative or positive indications. Nov 3, 2013 at 16:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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