If a value (e.g. in mathematics or information science) can either decrease or increase let's say by one, does there exist a neutral expression based on increment and decrement which covers both cases?

Here's an example:

The number of players may only increase or decrease exactly by one.

Here's my phantasy English sentence:

The negative player crement is -1. The positive player crement is +1.

I could use the word "change", but what I am really looking for is a noun which precisely describes that the changes are always equidistant, i.e. of the same kind and value.

  • I am looking for a noun. I apologize, I think I need to be more specific in my question.
    – LongHike
    Feb 25, 2019 at 9:59
  • What you need is a hypernym for increment and decrement.
    – Kris
    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:57
  • Related/ Possible Duplicate: "Base/root of increment and decrement" english.stackexchange.com/q/244656
    – Kris
    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:02
  • I think the game-theory guys might use "pay-off." The sign covers the direction, and the unit will not need to be specified, as players will already know what they are and that they are of equal size (being units). I would use "Increment" and "decrement" for automatic counters, not for keeping score.
    – remarkl
    Feb 25, 2019 at 13:19
  • 1
    Yes, it's increment. Decrement is an entirely unnecessary word much like deceleration. It's an occasional convenience, but that is all. The player count handler only allows changes to player count in increments of one.
    – Phil Sweet
    Feb 26, 2019 at 2:22

3 Answers 3


There is no direct root to use, such as crement. Increment and decrement come from the Latin increscere, and decrescere which themselves are further rooted in the Latin cresco which itself means to grow or to come into being. So, even following the etymology of the word, crement would basically mean the same as increment as crement is simply a verb which has that meaning.


You asked for a noun even though your example uses a verb. You could use the word variation. The Oxford Dictionary has

A change or slight difference in condition, amount, or level, typically within certain limits.

Your sentence can be

The variation in number of players may be plus or minus one.

But the verb vary is perhaps less clumsy

The number of players may vary by plus or minus one.

This is more like your original sentence.

  • I've marked it as "useful" because I haven't thought about it. The meaning it conveys is still not narrow enough though.
    – LongHike
    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:16

Deviation n. and deviate v. is what mathematicians and statisticians would use.


In the case of normally distributed data, the three sigma rule means that roughly 1 in 22 observations will differ by twice the standard deviation or more from the mean, and 1 in 370 will deviate by three times the standard deviation[1]

[1]: Ruan, Da; Chen, Guoqing; Kerre, Etienne (2005). Wets, G., ed. Intelligent Data Mining: Techniques and Applications. Studies in Computational Intelligence Vol. 5. Springer. p. 318. ISBN 978-3-540-26256-5.

  • @choster I see. I'm new on this site, please do point out my problems, I'll do my best to correct them. I added 2 examples, would that do?
    – DannyNiu
    Feb 27, 2019 at 3:01
  • I stole one from Wikipedia. @choster
    – DannyNiu
    Feb 27, 2019 at 3:19

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