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I'm trying to remember a word that is used to describe a perfect specimen or sample of something. That is, a unit that best represents other units.

I think this term may come from stamp collecting. My mind associates this word with words like supernumerary, nomenclature, and nominal. It may even sound like one of those words.

The intended usage is something along these lines, "An uncompressed XXXXXXXXX file was then transcoded to numerous candidate codecs and objective measurements were made between the XXXXXXXXX and derivative files." In this example, XXXXXXXXX would be replaced by the word I'm trying to think of.

Many thanks in advance for any assistance you can offer!

  • 'Quintessential' would seem to meet the OP's request for "a term for a perfect specimen or sample", but alas it does not quite do what it's supposed to do in the context provided, where it reads and sounds rather clunky! – Peter Point Nov 12 '16 at 22:17
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The word you're looking for is exemplar. Here's a philatelic usage about the famous 1918 "Inverted Jenny" US airmail stamp:

An exemplar of it was bought for $ 977500 in 2007.

  • That indeed is the word I was seeking. Well done! – Ed McNichol Nov 12 '16 at 21:11
  • @EdMcNichol You say in your OP "I think the word may come from stamp collecting". I have looked at the entry in the OED, and there is nothing which suggests it originates from, or has any special connection with philately. It is the Latin neuter of exemplaris and the OED has English examples of its use from as early as 1393. The world's first postage stamp was not issued until 1840! – WS2 Nov 12 '16 at 22:34
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How about archetype?

M-W:

archetype: a perfect example of something

Your example:

"An uncompressed archetype file was then transcoded to numerous candidate codecs and objective measurements were made between the archetype and derivative files."

  • That's another good one that I'll have to consider. – Ed McNichol Dec 4 '16 at 17:23
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Although deadrat's exemplar is the word that you were looking for, I think that in the context you describe, perhaps reference is closer to the mark.

  • This is a comment, not an answer. We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed. – tchrist Nov 13 '16 at 15:26
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paragon.

To refer to a 'perfect specimen' I would consider the word paragon.

It doesn't seem to fit too well in your context but I think it's worth a mention.

  • Please explain why you think this answers the question. We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed. – tchrist Nov 13 '16 at 15:27
  • This didn't answer question? – PCARR Nov 27 '16 at 0:06
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The term representative (more relevant to a sample rather than a unit specimen) implies something that best represents the bigger something in question.

ODO:

representative ADJECTIVE

1.1 Containing typical examples of many or all types:
‘a representative sample of young people in Scotland’

‘Collect a representative sample - no less than 5 lb in a paper bag (good idea to double bag) and directly transport or mail to a laboratory for testing.’
‘Getting a representative sample of such a diverse and unconcentrated industry is difficult but essential.’
‘It is hard to say how representative a sample this is.’

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Something which is specifically created to define a standard can be referred to as a prototype one notable example being the International Prototype Kilogram. Although the meaning can change with context and can also refer to an early or test version which is later further refined and developed.

In some contexts the adjective definitive can also be used for emphasis (an this term is indeed used of stamps). For example you might say that something is a definitive version of a document.

Another possibility, especially when an object is being duplicated mechanically or electronically is a master.

All of the above are appropriate when you are talking about something used as a reference in a design, manufacturing or reproduction process.

Also benchmark may be used especially when you are trying to compare complex or ambiguous systems to get a measure of relative performance although this often implies a testing prcess or procedure rather than a physical reference sample.

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Exactly what would be wrong wth "An uncompressed file was then transcoded to numerous candidate codecs and objective measurements were made between the transcoded and derivative files", please?

  • The resulting measurements would be between the uncompressed file and the other files. The transcoded files ARE the derivative files. – Ed McNichol Dec 4 '16 at 17:25
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quintessential

representing the most perfect or typical example of a quality or class. "he was the quintessential tough guy—strong, silent, and self-contained"

  • Could you further explain why this is an appropriate answer to think question> – BladorthinTheGrey Nov 14 '16 at 18:00

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