I am used to seeing the word coefficient used only in mathematics (and other technical, sciencey settings).

However, in Benjamin Anderson's Economics and the Public Welfare: Financial and Economic History of the United States, 1914-1946 (published 1949), he writes (Google Books):

Political, moral, cultural, and religious forces are coefficients with economic forces in the determination of historical events

What does he mean here and is this usage still current?

  • And a mathematician will tell you that a coefficient is essentially a "knob" on a mathematical equation which you can turn to change it's characteristics. Same difference here. – Hot Licks Dec 15 '17 at 3:03
  • @HotLicks ,No this is a different usage used between about 1880 and 1920. Coefficient isn't just a math term. It's used in many science and tech disciplines to refer to concepts entirely devoid of math's knob-like scenario. Heat transfer coefficiency has units of W/M^2K. It has nothing to do with the coefficients of a math expression. – Phil Sweet Dec 15 '17 at 3:27
  • @PhilSweet - So you're telling me that a heat transfer coefficient isn't a factor in an equation? – Hot Licks Dec 15 '17 at 4:23


coefficiency (countable and uncountable, plural coefficiencies)
joint efficiency; cooperation (Can we find and add a quotation of Glanvill to this entry?)
Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing. (See the entry for coefficiency in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)


It's an outdated and short-lived usage. It looks like it was already on the way out, because it seems like it should have been coefficiencies, not coefficients

Unless these factors are so divided and distributed that the coefficiencies of the war can be maintained, first physical and then moral collapse are inevitable. The coefficiencies necessary to war are a fighting force, an industrial system that can turn out munitions, clothing and transportation and steady food production.


Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Volumes 77-78, 1918
Mobilization of Population for Winning the War, by Talbot Williams LL.D.

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