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I wish to know what could be a one word or phrase synonym for the term 'Significant enough to make a difference'.

Till now I thought that the term 'statistically significant' meant that it's significant enough that it makes a difference but that doesn't mean that it's actually very significant. A quick Google search suggests that it's not what I thought.

I couldn't think of a better word/s that I can put in the sentence

"We need to find results that are ______. ( Significant enough to make a difference)."

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

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.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Jan 5 at 15:30
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    You have received several good answers. The choice among them is the degree (magnitude) of difference you want to suggest. My first thought after reading your question was "substantial", but that means it makes a big difference. "Meaningful" or "material" are better because they include small differences that are not substantial, but are still "significant enough to make a difference". – Old Pro Jan 6 at 19:06
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    The phrase "statistical significance" actually has a technical meaning in the field of statistics (it has to meet certain numerical criteria) and also happens to mean that a difference is significant. – user1359 Jan 7 at 15:11
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    Why not just Significant: sufficiently great or important to be worthy of attention; noteworthy. – AbraCadaver Jan 7 at 17:00
  • Some of the issues with the answers here are that this really a question for the statistical community rather than for people with expertise in the English language per se. It would probably more fruitfully have been posted to stats.stackexchange.com where there would be clear appreciation of the statistical meaning of the word significant rather than its meanings in general English. Even in statistics, the answer would vary by the domain of application, eg by using modifiers like clinically significant, practically significant, etc to contrast with statistical significance. – Michael MacAskill Jan 8 at 4:19

26 Answers 26

47

You should consider nontrivial which means something which is not trivial (and hence should not be ignored).

"We need to find results that are nontrivial."

ODO:

nontrivial
ADJECTIVE
1 Not trivial; significant.

‘In the second half of the eighteenth century, a significant share of rural households in southern England suffered non-trivial declines in real income.’

trivial
ADJECTIVE
1 Of little value or importance.

‘Very often qualitative studies seem to be full of apparently trivial details.’

  • 8
    While I upvoted several others, I think this is the best answer. All of the others have at least suggestions of a truly large or significant effect that could imply more than is meant. "Nontrivial" precisely means something large enough that it cannot be disregarded in that context without any further implications about how large. Non-negligible would also be an almost perfect synonym, but its longer and requires a hyphenated phrase. – TimothyAWiseman Jan 2 at 17:43
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    I think this is not a good suggestion, for two reasons. 1) "nontrivial" and "trivial" have exact meaning in mathematics, e.g. nontrivial solution is the one which is not all zeros zero in set of linear equation, and trivial is x1=x2=,...=xn=0. 2) Possibly as spillover to mathematics, trivial also means easily obtained or obvious, and nontrivial can be understood as difficult to obtain (regardless of its impact). – xmp125a Jan 2 at 20:45
  • I was going to answer with this if no one else got to it first for the same reasons TimothyAWiseman mentioned; definitely the best answer here. – kayleeFrye_onDeck Jan 2 at 23:14
  • I would definitely use 'nontrivial' to say what OP is trying to say as well. – Mahn Jan 5 at 16:58
56

In some legal and financial contexts, an option is material. That would mean an event/action/adjustment that is likely to affect some important outcome. For instance "A tax rate increase of 10% would make a material difference to our profitability."

Merriam-Webster:

... having real importance or great consequences

For the accounting term: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materiality_(auditing)

  • 2
    Matt, I'd like to upvote this answer, but it is currently lacking the kind of evidence (such as a published definition of material, linked to the source) that would distinguish an authoritative answer from unsubstantiated personal opinion. You can edit your answer to add this extra information. For further guidance, see How to Answer and take the EL&U Tour :-) – Chappo Jan 2 at 1:41
  • I don't know a formal standard to cite, but the wording of every accounting opinion I have read, on hundreds of financial statements, is that e.g. the statements opined on "... present fairly, in all material respects, XYZ company's consolidated balance sheet as of and results of operations for the years ended Dec. 31, 2017, 2016, and 2015" and also that internal control was judged adequate "to prevent, or detect and correct on a timely basis, any material misstatement". – dave_thompson_085 Jan 2 at 5:04
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    You could use a definition from a legal dictionary. Here's Black's: thelawdictionary.org/material and a more modern take: lectlaw.com/def2/m021.htm – 1006a Jan 2 at 5:42
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    I'm a professional auditor. I looked through the key guidance I use regularly and it doesn't include a definition of "material" - it's assumed professional knowledge. The GAO's Yellow Book (gao.gov/assets/700/693136.pdf) and AICPA standard on materiality (aicpa.org/Research/Standards/AuditAttest/DownloadableDocuments/…) contain numerous examples. – indigochild Jan 3 at 19:03
  • Material is a good choice, but can run the risk of being misunderstood by non-native English speakers. I'd prefer it to significant as that has even more baggage from statistics to be clear to people outside the field. Adding a footnote that explains what you mean quantitatively may help to limit ambiguity. – Pekka Jan 6 at 19:20
55

A result is said to be meaningful when it has some real-world significance.

full of meaning, significance, purpose, or value; purposeful; significant:

Dictionary.com

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.

  • 1
    That's just a synonym for "significant" when used in the proper context. – Carl Witthoft Jan 4 at 16:09
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    @CarlWitthoft Yes, and that makes sense. The term "significant" has a specific meaning in statistics, and using it twice here causes confusion, when one wants to say that a [statistically] significant results was not [meaningfully] significant. WIthout the bracket words the sentence makes no sense. – jimm101 Jan 4 at 20:55
36

Substantial as in "a substantial salary" or "a substantial amount" fits the bill.

substantial - (adjective) significantly great MW

  • The party has just lost office and with it a substantial number of seats.¹
  • That is a very substantial improvement in the present situation.¹
  • She inherited a substantial fortune from her grandmother.²
  • All the evidence points to a substantial rise in traffic over the next few years.²
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    Substantial indicates "considerable importance, size, or worth". IMO that's a "meaningful" (noteworthy, or non-negligible) difference. E.g., a pay raise that is noteworthy, meaningful, or impactful is not necessarily substantial (nor is it necessarily significant). But, it may still be enough to "make a difference". – The AI Architect Jan 2 at 3:20
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    I'd suggest substantive as being a softer word for conveying a similar concept. Similar to the difference between historic and historical. – Kirk Woll Jan 6 at 21:54
  • The best answer for scientific writing. Very clearly orthogonal to the concept of "(statistically) significant" – Bananach Jan 7 at 10:21
  • "Substantial" is probably more strong than the poster needs. If someone said to me: "Traffic was so bad today, it had a substantial impact on my arrival time", I'd assume the speaker was HOURS late to work, not the mere 10 minutes which was enough for their boss to notice. The first example hints at this. They lost office, so any number of seats lost is "significant enough" which implies "substantial" has a different meaning. – Gregory Currie Jan 8 at 3:00
  • Yes - substantial is what I use, as in this example and another example from the Stats.stackexchange site – Henry Jan 8 at 10:55
29

"Significant"

The relevant Oxford English Dictionary meaning of the word is "Sufficiently great or important to be worthy of attention; noteworthy; consequential, influential."

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    Simon, I don't think this answer is adequate given the issue identified by the OP regarding "statistically significant". It's incumbent on you to explain how "We need to find results that are significant" avoids a narrowly statistical interpretation. Something that is statistically significant may not make any difference at all, since "make a difference" implies causality whereas "significant" might merely relate to a correlation. – Chappo Jan 3 at 3:06
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    Does this answer add anything to the comment by @michael.hor257k? The comment's being very highly upvoted indicated that it may well deserve to be developed into an answer, but, given that the OP is already well familiar with this word, the answer needs to explain why it is misguided to look for a different one. – jsw29 Jan 3 at 16:57
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    Please explain in your own words why you think this answers the question. Right now it has no explanation and thus is not an answer. – tchrist Jan 5 at 15:30
25

Non-negligible works well in certain contexts when discussing a variable that is so not so insignificant that it can be neglected.

The definition of negligible is:

so small, trifling, or unimportant that it may safely be neglected or disregarded

Non-negligible is, of course, the opposite.

20

To directly match “Significant enough to make a difference” I’d suggest impactful:

Oxford Dictionaries

Impactful - Having a major impact or effect.

For the specific context you’ve provided, though, I think noteworthy fits the sentence much better:

Oxford Dictionaries

Noteworthy - Worth paying attention to; interesting or significant.

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    Impactful was the word that came to my mind when I read the question. To me 'Noteworthy' doesn't carry the same strength (For example, a minor uptick in the stock market may be noteworthy but not impactful). – Balaz2ta Jan 2 at 2:43
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    OMG that is one but-tugly word. Please don't let people use it! – Carl Witthoft Jan 4 at 16:10
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    Please explain in your own words why you think this answers the question. Right now it has no explanation and thus is not an answer. – tchrist Jan 5 at 15:31
15

Because you mention statistical significance, I would like to discuss the usage in a technical context.

Statistical significance essentially means that an observed difference or change is unlikely to have occurred by chance, and hence that it very probably is indicative of some real phenomenon. As you have discovered, this does not necessarily mean that the change or difference is of any importance. Even extremely small changes may be statistically significant if the measurement process is very precise.

Sometimes, this creates the requirement of distinguishing between "differences that are statistically significant, but inconsequential" and "differences that are statistically significant, and are also large enough to have some practical impact." Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a single word or short phrase that is universally understood to have this technical meaning.

In my own field, we say "technically significant" to mean "of practical importance, whether or not it is also statistically significant." However I am aware of other fields that use the same phrase to mean almost the opposite: "statistically significant but unimportant."

So in a technical context, it seems that if there is any risk of confusion it is best to clearly state what you mean instead of trying to form a compact phrase.

  • 6
    (+1) "Practical significance" is I think most often used in distinction to (mere) "statistical significance": google.com/search?q="Practical+significance". – Scortchi Jan 2 at 10:59
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    Another option is a context-specific adverb: e.g. "The rise in cholesterol levels was statistically, but not physiologically, significant." – Scortchi Jan 2 at 11:18
11

I'd stick with 'significant'.

"We need to find results that are significant".

"Enough to make a difference" is exactly what "significant" MEANS. 'Significant enough to make a difference' is tautology.

I'd avoid 'statistically significant' outside a mathematical context. As people have mentioned, that means something special.

9

The accepted term in medicine and psychology is "clinically significant", as compared to statistical significance.

In medicine and psychology, clinical significance is the practical importance of a treatment effect—whether it has a real genuine, palpable, noticeable effect on daily life.

Note that this usage is endorsed by the American Psychological Association (APA) per Vacha-Haase et al. (2000). I do not know of any comparable standards in medicine (being a somewhat psychology-affiliated statistician), but these may be findable.

  • 3
    Not an antonym. Insulin treatment is clinically significant and statistically significant. – Phil Frost Jan 2 at 23:20
  • palpable (results) – Mazura Jan 2 at 23:24
  • Yes, this is not at all an antonym to statistical significance, in either psychology or medicine. Statistical significance is necessary but not sufficient for clinical significance. Statistical significance is whether an observed difference is likely to be due to chance; clinical significance is about the size of that difference, the effect size. You cannot have a clinically significant effect size if there is no effect – De Novo Jan 3 at 5:25
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    Good points. I changed "antonym" to "compared to". – Stephan Kolassa Jan 3 at 9:02
7

A simple word that conveys the meaning is to matter. Using your example:

We need to find results that matter.

According to dictionary.com the definition for the verb "to matter" is

to be of importance; signify.

Similary, if something is "no matter",

it is unimportant; it makes no difference.

5

Notable comes to mind. From the OED:

1. Worthy or deserving of attention, esp. on account of excellence, value, or importance; significant in size or amount; noteworthy, remarkable, striking, signal, eminent.

While this is similar to "Noteworthy" (as talked about in this answer), notable tends to emphasize the greatness of a thing. For more on the subtle but noteworthy differences, see this thread.

5

Substantial has already been suggested, but I would suggest that substantive would be a better choice. From Merriam-Webster:

: having substance : involving matters of major or practical importance to all concerned

As already noted on substantial, this depends on exactly what you want to say. An alternative would be impactful which seems to better fit what you want than meaningful. Meaningful would more normally be used when there are a variety of ways of measuring meaning. Impactful is more singular. It is full of one impact, not a variety of meanings.

I would find it better than substantial, because it relates more to the importance rather than the size in normal usage. It's also more of a binary choice. Something is either substantive or not. Substantial is more relative and depends more on context. Substantive is generally used in ways that are not modified by words like rather or very.

Substantive has fewer meanings than material, which is a reasonable synonym. Thus, I would prefer it as being more obvious about what was meant.

4

Salient. In tech it is common to specify salient characteristics when requesting quotes from vendors.

  • This is a good option. It indicates something is worth paying attention to but does not imply extreme importance. – barbecue Jan 2 at 17:51
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    You should link to a dictionary definition or other evidence to support your answer, and probably quote the meaning of the word in this usage from that source. – V2Blast Jan 3 at 4:42
4

Considerable

Considerable

adjective

notably large in size, amount, or extent. "a position of considerable influence" synonyms: sizable, substantial, appreciable, significant; More

I think in your example it means that the results are worth considering because of their significance.

2

Most of the other answers provide a word that is much more than just significant enough to make a difference. I'd like to suggest a word that quite literally means "[just] significant enough to make a difference."

Adequate

sufficient for a specific need or requirement

good enough

You didn't note speicifally how much of a difference had to be made, so I chose a word that covered the least amount possible to meet the needs of your test case.

2

From comments it looks like this is being used in communications with clients. Without knowing more about those clients and how they might interpret terminology it's difficult to come up with an ideal term, but here are a few possible scenarios.

If you are talking about features or attributes of something which are important enough that they should be paid attention to in a particular environment or context, relevant can be used.

Relevant in this context means a thing is of enough significance that it should not be disregarded, but it does not convey extreme importance. If something is relevant, it needs to be taken into account, but may not be the most important aspect.

Example: "Pages two and three of the instructions are relevant to customers in Hawaii only."

Noticeable is similar in that it indicates a difference worthy of paying attention to, but not in a dramatic or extreme manner, and is often used to describe a change in a measurement or quantity.

Example: "There was a noticeable improvement in gas mileage after I replaced my tires."

This indicates the improvement was enough to be worth considering, but it does not convey an extreme or surprising amount of improvement.

If you want to convey that the significance is just enough to achieve a specific threshold and no more, then sufficient will work.

Example: "My exam score was sufficient to ensure I got a B in the class." The implication is that the score was just high enough, not exceptional or perfect.

2

Not only do you want statistically significant results, you want results that are effectual.

Random House dictionary

effectual: producing or capable of producing an intended effect; adequate

With a sufficiently large sample size, even trivially small effects can be measured with statistical significance. But it sounds like you want the ones that result in a larger effect—that is, the most effectual.

1

One that's used in British English (esp. sports reporting) is telling. Idiomatically, a player whose impact on a match is significant enough to make a difference may be said to make a telling contribution.

See here for example usage.

  • Seems reasonable to me, why the downvote? – barbecue Jan 2 at 17:11
0

My suggestion is decisive.

Oxford Dictionaries:

Decisive
Settling an issue; producing a definite result.

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    Please explain in your own words why you think this answers the question. Right now it has no explanation and thus is not an answer. – tchrist Jan 5 at 15:28
0

Statisticians distinguish between significance and effect size. While these two things tend to run together, results can be highly significant but show a small effect, while other results can show a big effect yet still be insignificant. Typically a very big sample can yield the former, while a very small sample often results in the latter.

Thus your proposed sentence might well be worded as

"We need to find results that show a significant large effect."

You need significance because insignificant results are of dubious value, even if they look impressive. I do not know a one-word adjective that means exactly "showing a large effect". The nearest I can think of is the word just used—impressive—but it is somewhat imprecise as to just what it describes.

0

"Important".

A current dictionary defines that as, "of great significance or value", but its earlier meaning (and the way I understand it) is "being of consequence" -- see also one of the meanings of the noun "import", which is given as, "the implicit meaning or significance of something".

0

Altohugh you cite statistics, it is not completely clear if the context in which you would put the word you seek is some scientific or technical paper.

Assuming the context is not so specific, I think a common word that may be interpreted, in general contexts, as "something more than significant", is remarkable.

We need to find results that are remarkable.

0

overwhelming

(adjective) very great in amount.

Or in your specific instance, maybe

compelling

is a better choice. As in "we need to find results which are compelling."

compelling

(adjective) forceful, demanding attention, convincing.

-1

crucial might work, it encompasses both the significance and the decisiveness:

2 a : important or essential as resolving a crisis : decisive
// She played a crucial role in the negotiations.

b : marked by final determination of a doubtful issue
// the crucial game of a series

c : important, significant
// … what use we make of them will be the crucial question.
— Stanley Kubrick
// Vitamins are crucial for maintaining good health.

(source: Merriam-Webster)

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    There are many things that are significant - even important - but still not crucial. – michael.hor257k Jan 1 at 20:42
-2

Another word which may work here is worthwhile (in the sense of worth considering).

"We need to find results that are worthwhile".

ODO:

worthwhile
(also worth one's while, worth while)
ADJECTIVE
Worth the time, money, or effort spent; of value or importance.

‘Questions were thrown at me on a subject until I could give no more worthwhile answers.’

  • 1
    Please explain in your own words why you think this answers the question. Right now it has no explanation and thus is not an answer. – tchrist Jan 5 at 15:28

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