I'm writing a tech doc and this question bothers me, though I know it should be simple.

I know I should say "A pair of [Key, Value]", but when I have something like "A ____ of [Key, Value, Flag]", I'm just not sure if the proper word is triple, or something else.

Is triple often used as an adjective instead of a noun? Is there a better word?

  • 1
    'Triple' can be used as an adjective: triple crown in horse racing, triple score in a video game, a triple scoop for an ice cream cone. As a noun or adjective, triple is probably the best of all the examples (the others have more context restricted usage). – Mitch Aug 29 '11 at 13:42
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    another one, not mentioned yet is triplet(as a noun) – Theta30 Aug 29 '11 at 16:10
  • Yeah, I would say "triplet". – Hot Licks Jan 25 '16 at 19:28
  • 'Triplet' refers most frequently to siblings born simultaneously. This is a technical document. 'Trio' is better (and shorter if you're interested in saving space). From OED 2. A group or set of three: b. of things or animals; in quot. 1777 a stanza of three lines; in Cricket, three runs. – Timothy Bostick Jun 3 at 9:59

If you were not writing in a technical context, an option is the noun, trio:

  1. [countable + singular or plural verb]

a group of three people or things

A trio of English runners featured in the women's 1500 metres.

However, for technical contexts triple is perfectly fine. You can use triple as a noun, as the Merriam Webster dictionary indicates. Wiktionary indicates that one of the few uses of triple as a noun is:

(mathematics, computing) A sequence of three elements or 3-tuple.

For your case, I would recommend triple because trio sounds a bit more hoity-toity. Both would be accurate, but I think triple carries the right tone. (For example, there are Pythagorean triples but not Pythagorean trios).

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    In a computing context, 3-tuple is probably more usual. Mathematicians seem to prefer triple, as in your example. – Karl Knechtel Aug 29 '11 at 11:35
  • Good point @Karl. Is it used in tech docs? I've only ever used it to talk about a program informally – simchona Aug 29 '11 at 11:38
  • Google NGrams doesn't seem to have heard of 3-tuples, but the use of the word 'tuple' in general has skyrocketed in the computer era (before which it was practically unheard of), so... – Karl Knechtel Aug 29 '11 at 11:48
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    'Trio' is much more restricted in usage than triple. It is the common name for a piece of music for three instruments, but is also used for a group of three people – Mitch Aug 29 '11 at 13:53

A couple of related words are threesome and triad, both of which mean a group of three. In general, threesome is used for people and triad, for inanimate objects.

  • 1
    I'd use 'trio' as suggested above. 'Threesome' has sexual connotations, and 'triad' has Chinese mafia connotations. 'Trio' is nice and generic, perfect for a technical manual. – Timothy Bostick Jun 3 at 9:50


A set or succession of three similar things.

  • 'The reason why a triplet or quad of Aces is worth so few points is because they can be very easy to get.'
  • 'It constitutes a triplet, the first number representing the position, the second the wavelength and the third the transmission.'
  • 'DNA, RNA, and protein triplets or pairs were united on the basis of a high degree of similarity as detected by the appropriate blast algorithm or on the basis of annotation.'

(Oxford Dictionaries)

For some reason, nobody posted this as an answer yet even though Theta30 mentioned it in a comment in 2011.

  • Nobody posted this as an answer before you because triple is the logical increment of tuple; triplet is the logical increment of twin. In informatics, a key-value pair is called tuple or 2-tuple. Therefore, an ordered multiset of three elements such as key-value-flag would either be called 3-tuple or triple. – user33313 Jun 8 '17 at 14:25

Triple is also used as noun, but its meaning is different from the meaning of the adjective. Among others, the meanings of triple as noun reported by the NOAD are the following:

  • a thing that is three times as large as usual or is made up of three standard units or items
  • (triples) a sporting contest in which each side has three players
  • another term for trifecta

The OED reports also that triple as noun means "a thing consisting of three parts; a set of three items."

He pressed […] a triple of keys.—Joyce


a tripling technique is

two or more idea to the sentences like: the multimedia dictionary is idea for students,teachersand writers.

  • 1
    I don't understand this post. What is the word or phrase that you would suggest using in the context ""A ____ of [Key, Value, Flag]"? We can't use "tripling" or "tripling technique" here. – sumelic Jul 17 '16 at 19:29

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