If the context I was searching this word in dealt with numeric data, then my term of choice would be "statistic", defined (by a Google search) as:

A fact or piece of data obtained from a study of a large quantity of numerical data.

And by Wikitionary as:

A quantity calculated from the data in a sample, which characterises an important aspect in the sample

It's different from "summary" or a "gist" because a summary is expected to have an brief overview of all things in the original data, but a statistic is very lossy (for example if you have the statistic median then you don't know what values lie before or after median, so it is not a summarization of data).

Thus a desirable property for this word is that it isn't expected to have complete (not in terms of depth, i.e. details but in terms of breadth) information about the data.

And a gist is supposed to capture the essence of something, but here there may be multiple statistics, each serving a different purpose (e.g. the median which tells you the middle value of the data if you sort it, or the mode which tells you the value which occurs with highest frequency)

And it's different from "property" or "attribute" because they also refer to meta-things about data, for example the data is "clean" may be a property, it is "preprocessed" may be another property.

So another desirable property of this word is that it is directly the consequence of information of the data (without regard to other things like form)

To give an example of non-numerical data, suppose that your data is text for a job advertisement. Then things like "target demographic", "salary", "location", "job title" may together form a summary of the advert, but individually they are ___________ of the data.

  • 2
    It's unclear what you're asking. The correct technical term for this is "property" or "attribute" despite your not liking those terms. Do you mean some attributes and not others? How do you make the distinction? Finally, what do you consider a "summary" of something that can't be measured?
    – Spencer
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 15:43
  • @Spencer a meta-data like the data is clean or not might be a "property" but it is certainly not a statistic. I guess the differentiating factor here is that it has to be an inference from the data, not be about the data. Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 15:49
  • Oh I see, you're confusing which attribute belongs to which entity. Attribute is probably preferable to "property" because it has a well-known technical meaning, so I'll go with that in my answer.
    – Spencer
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 15:55

2 Answers 2



Really, that's the right answer.

(Google dictionary defines it as):

1.a quality or feature regarded as a characteristic or inherent part of someone or something.

2.(computing) a piece of information that determines the properties of a field or tag in a database or a string of characters in a display.

And really, all definition #2 does is try to realize the abstract concept in definition #1.

Entity-attribute modeling is a key concept of database design. The Wikipedia article on entity-attribute modeling tries to explain this but wanders off into a lot of nonsense; IBM's article is much better.

What you've gotten yourself hung up on is confusion over which attribute belongs to which entity. Your question seeks to identify the attributes of the "workflow" entity but not those of the surrounding meta-entities (such as the status attributes you mention).

In your job advertising example, you care about the attributes of the job and not the attributes of the advertisement! So, the job's salary meets your criteria. The typeface the ad was printed in, whether it was printed on the right day, and whether other nearby ads take away attention don't.

Edit: OP asked in a comment whether something that's not directly represented (such as an average of a set of numbers) can be an attribute, and the answer is a firm yes.

A set of numbers has an average whether you ever calculate it or not.

It's an abstract concept which may not necessarily have a 1-1 physical backup. But again, you have to be clear about which entity this "average" attribute belongs to, in this case the set of numbers.

  • I have one question about choice of the word "attribute". Would it be appropriate even when the attribute isn't directly specified but is inferred / calculated from the data? Could we say that "average" is an attribute of a set of numbers? Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 16:07
  • @Peeyush Yes! See my edit.
    – Spencer
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 16:19
  • I used this for a while to make sure it doesn't sound odd. But it fits! Thanks Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 11:57

Precis is the correct term in many situations:

noun, plural précis [prey-seez, prey-seez] (Show IPA) 1. a concise summary.

from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/precis

  • The body of OP's question asks something quite different from the title and doesn't actually involve a summary.
    – Spencer
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 17:22

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