I wish to know the difference between medium and intermediate.

There is an academic use for me trying to describe a physical parameter (a coupling constant of interactions) which is not too strong, but not too weak.

Should one use medium coupling or intermediate coupling?

medium strength or intermediate strength?

Many thanks.

  • i find this useful, but quite into my point: english.stackexchange.com/questions/105325/… – wonderich Jul 9 '14 at 17:24
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    In my usage, I tend to use "medium" for the middle value of a continuous range, and "intermediate" for the middle value of a discrete range. I say "in my usage" because I can't find a rule for it. – outis nihil Jul 9 '14 at 17:27
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    Intermediate is a technical term, and falutes higher. Medium just means 'middle (of three)'. – John Lawler Jul 9 '14 at 17:30
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    Intermediate connotes something transient on its way to a final steady-state condition. I probably would not choose medium or intermediate for your coupling example- I'd probably choose appropriate or sufficient – Jim Jul 9 '14 at 18:32
  • @Jim and outis nihil, I like your comments. – wonderich Jul 9 '14 at 19:01

I generally think of medium as being of some sort of the middle of a static range, (statistically it is defined as the value halfway between the mininum and maximum values), such as being of medium height, while intermediate is about the middle of a process such as the intermediate level music examinations are what you would have to pass through to get from beginner level to advanced level.

The other important point is that a given case may have several intermediate levels or states but will only have one medium point.

The other difference is that a specific sample might not contain any of the medium value but a range of states must pass through the intermediate value as they progress.

To use them in a physics sense I would say:

  • in a set of samples for stress testing a medium sheer point of 10 N was found but
  • in all samples 7 N was found to be an intermediate point between the elastic limit and the sheer point.

In your coupling context I would say that possibly single a system can be strongly coupled or weakly coupled and has one or more intermediate levels of coupling but if each of a set of systems can only have one level of coupling then the middle level between the highest and lowest will be medium coupling.

  • I see nothing wrong with the fragments "being of intermediate height" and "the medium level music examinations". I think this explains part of the answerer's idiolect but no more than that. – High Performance Mark Jul 9 '14 at 23:29
  • @HighPerformanceMark The intermediate music exams are at a medium level but they differ from other medium level exams in that you must pass them before taking your advanced level exams while you can take high level exams before taking medium level ones. The point I was trying for is they are a mid point in a process or progression. – Steve Barnes Jul 10 '14 at 5:06
  • It is precisely your proposal that "intermediate" is appropriate for a process and "medium" for a static range that I am disagreeing with. This is not a distinction in the proper application of the words that I recognise. – High Performance Mark Jul 10 '14 at 6:24

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