I need to ask a user to request either a minimum or maximum value. What would be the appropriate label for this? I have considered extremum but I am not sure if this is commonly understood or appropriate.

Example: Is the user interested in a companies lowest or highest stock price over the last 6 months? They will have the option of choosing 'min' or 'max'.

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    What is the context, the English language is so context orientated that without that it is hard to offer a suggestion.
    – Lazarus
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 11:40
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    Extremum is certainly correct; whether your audience will understand it is another question. My own preference is to push it -- most times, the meaning can be guessed from context (especially an obvious word like "extremum") and if they have to go to a dictionary, well, it probably won't kill them. Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 1:40
  • Oh, and @Lazarus, there's no context (afaik) where "orientated" is a real word (what would it be, the part-participle of the nonexistent verb "orientate"?) Orient is a lovely word, it means literally "towards the rising sun", from orior, "to rise" and its past-participle is "oriented". Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 1:45
  • @Lazarus I have added an example.
    – row1
    Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 1:45
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    @Malvolio : orientated is a perfectly acceptable variant on oriented and was the variant I was taught to use, being the more popular in the UK at that time.
    – Lazarus
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 11:19

5 Answers 5


Mathematicians call this either an extremum (plural extrema) or extreme value. But as you say, this is unlikely to be understood by non-technical users. I doubt that there is a better term for it, however, since mathematicians would probably not have come up with a special word for this if there was an ordinary English word or short phrase that meant the same thing.

I would recommend you just use "maximum or minimum value".


You could refer to the bounds of the range. From NOAD:

bound 2
noun (often bounds)
a territorial limit; a boundary : the ancient bounds of the forest.
• a limitation or restriction on feeling or action : it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the issue could arise again | enthusiasm to join the union knew no bounds.
technical a limiting value.

The "limiting" value can refer to the upper or lower limit.

  • I am not sure about about bound by itself since it has non-technical meanings. Perhaps adding aggregate to the end would make my intentions clearer e.g. bounds aggregate or limit aggregate.
    – row1
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 9:33
  • Maximum is a bound, minimum is a bound, together they form the bounds of whatever is being bounded. There's no need for aggregate.
    – Lazarus
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 11:38
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    Commonly speaking, I think "limit" or "range" would be more generally understood than "bounds".
    – devios1
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 17:04

Floor and Ceiling value

Where Floor is the lowest value (minimum) (the ground is the limit)

And Ceiling is the highes value(maximum) (the ceiling is the limit)

Although it is slightly different in terms of programming language, it makes sense in all other contexts.


Extreme is used as a noun to mean highest/lowest value. Merriam-Webster gives among the meanings of extreme "something situated at or marking one end or the other of a range" with example "extremes of heat and cold".

One example is in the UK Met Office's database of weather extremes. The usage is perhaps more common in meteorology/climatology than in some other fields, but here's a paper from 2015 on "forecasting financial extremes".


A word that can replace both maximum and minimum and be understood correctly in context is


"The optimum score in golf is 18, from a hole-in-one on every hole."

"The optimum score in darts is 180, all three darts in the triple score area of 20."

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    I believe optimum means the best possible. Even in your example, I don't think it denotes the minimum value.
    – rest_day
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 22:31
  • @rest_day: ok but then what is the optimum score in golf?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 23:44
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    I do not follow golf, so I did not know that in golf the player with lowest point wins. But what I meant in my comment was that optimum cannot be used to denote both maximum and minimum at the same time, as the OP asked.
    – rest_day
    Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 0:03
  • The optimum in darts is 180, and not 0. The two extrema in darts are 0 and 180. As @rest_day says, it doesn't mean the same thing. Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 0:18
  • I read the OP saying "either minimum or maximum" as one or the other, only one at a time (as in my two examples). If the OP is asking for -both- at the same time, then extrema is correct.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 0:51

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