In a mathematical context (e.g. when talking about a weighted average), how should I qualify the word weight? Which one should I use? "Greater", "higher" or "bigger"?


"... and that can be achieved using greater weights for such instances?"

"... and that can be achieved using higher weights for such instances?"

"... and that can be achieved using bigger weights for such instances?"

Obs: I did read a similar question, but I not sure if it's answer can be applied here.

  • 3
    The answer is "yes". Plus "larger". One or another may be more idiomatic for a given situation. – Hot Licks May 8 '18 at 0:03
  • I' d say that 'bigger weight' references the object, i.e. 'bigger lump of metal', weight here being the name of objects primarily used for their heaviness; and 'greater/higher weight' references the gravitational pull, i.e. 'greater gravitational pull', weight here being the name for the parameter. So the question is: is it a weight, or has it weight? – loonquawl Jun 7 '18 at 4:54
  • I think there is an issue here with the noun. a weight function or factor or weighting. Give greater/less weight to an argument. – Lambie Sep 5 '18 at 16:08

As others have said, all three are idiomatic, and there are other options as well.

Looking at the actual usage stats from the British National Corpus (BNC) and the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), we have this:

                       BNC      COCA      

greater weight          37      138     
heavier weight          11       40     
higher weight            3       33     
larger weight            0        5     
stronger weight          1        2     
bigger weight            0        2     

So, on both sides of the pond, greater looks like the safest choice, while bigger is a very rare sight indeed.

And just for the sake of completeness:

                       BNC      COCA      

lighter weight          12      105     
lower weight             3       54     
smaller weight           2        3     

They are all correct, but “greater” seems more mathematical to me than the alternatives. Still, I can easily imagine a math professor using any of them in the context you cite.

  • I agree with Mr Zych: greater would be the word of choice in this case. – tautophile Jul 7 '18 at 7:20

Both 'greater' and 'bigger' are correct English in this context.

'Higher' is technically incorrect, (since no actual height is involved), though it is commonly used and many would consider it correct. 'Higher valued weights' would be perfectly correct.

'Bigger' is seen as an informal word and might not be acceptable in formal writing.

  • 1
    Not my downvote (someone beat me to it), but " 'Higher' is technically incorrect, (since no actual height is involved)" is unjustifiable. Can one not be 'technically correct' speaking of a higher temperature? Even if measured using an optical pyrometer rather than a mercury-in-glass thermometer? – Edwin Ashworth May 8 '18 at 9:46

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