I came across the word “comparator” in the report of International Monetary Fund under the title, “Can women save Japan?” (WP/12/248) co-authored by Chad Steinberg and Masao Nakane
“Japan has FLP rates similar to comparator countries for women in their early twenties, but the participation rate drops off sharply for women in their late twenties and thirties.”

As I have never heard of such word as “comparator countries / territories/ companies,” I checked Google Search, and found out definitions;

●www.weblio.jp Computer /IT terminology Dictionary: Generic term of precision measurement. Comparative measurement devices that determine the length of the object by comparing measuring object and standard scale by using microscope.

●Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia (Electronics term)An element that can switch power output by comparing two different voltage or electric current. The word is also applied to the apparatus that compare two different data.

●dictionary.goo.ne.jp › A device designed for measuring minimum length with extreme precision. Comparative measurement instrument to determine the difference of the length of object and standard gauge by using high powered micro-scope.

●www.kab-studio.biz Interface for class comparison processing.

To me, none of the above definitions seems to be applicable to the quoted line, “Japan has FLP rates similar to comparator countries for women in their early twenties.”

At the same time, I don’t believe the writers of authoritative organization like IMF makes misuse of word.

So, what does “comparator countries” mean? Does it mean the object countries of research, or simply the countries surveyed in this specific survey.?

Is it very common usage of the word “comparator” in comparative, or vital statistics, or even in daily conversation? If possible, I’d like to listen to the specific opinion from statistic specialists.

  • 2
    That is strange. I have only heard the word "comparator" in a mathematics/engineering context, used to mean "a device that compares" (like the Wikipedia and goo辞書 entries say). I have never heard it used as an adjective like in "comparator countries", but there appear to be a number of entries in the COCA corpus that use phrases like "comparator countries" and "comparator institutions. Interesting question, +1. (Note: "comparator" is not common in daily conversation, for sure.)
    – senshin
    Jun 22, 2014 at 3:16
  • 4
    I think they might have meant to use comparable. Jun 22, 2014 at 4:01
  • 1
    In programming and computer science, a comparator function is a function that takes two arguments, compares them according to a standard, and returns true if the first argument exceeds the second by the standard. (That is a typical comparator, but other comparators compare for equality, compare more than two items, and so on.)
    – Qaz
    Jun 22, 2014 at 16:55

3 Answers 3


I could find a few articles where actually the term comparator as a noun is used in relation to economic issues meaning 'something that compares'. I think it may be a figurative use of this term more commonly used in mathematics/engineerring contexts. Though not a common term, it is used in economic and financial contexts:

Comparator UK US /kəmˈpærətər/ noun [C]:

an organization, activity, etc. that is used to judge the performance of another similar organization or activity: » The comparators for Infobank are Ariba and Commerce One - all three provide online software.

1) Defining the scope of economic evaluation study and selection of comparators.

The present study describes key components used in defining the scope of economic evaluation study and selecting comparators. All relevant recommendations from international economic evaluation guidelines were reviewed and compared.

2) Does N = 2? Trans-Tasman Economic Integration as a Comparator for the Single European Market.

An apparent lack of similar cases has shaped how observers compare integration in Europe with other regions. The growing field of comparative regionalism, however, has overlooked three decades of sustained economic integration between Australia and New Zealand.


Of the online dictionaries that I ordinarily consult, Oxford has the definition that best fits the usage in your question:

comparator, n.: Something used as a standard for comparison:

even taking the most favourable comparator the company is about 20 per cent higher

None of the definitions of comparator listed in M-W has anything to do with statistics.

It's certainly not a word you'll hear in everyday conversation.


Comparator is often used in some legal/hr issues relating to labour issues around equal pay and discrimination.

There are many cases where a group is claiming that a Comparator group is paid more. For example dinner ladies (mostly female assisting with serving of school meals) and general handymen (a mostly male group) is one example.

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