The motivation of this question is the following: there are entities in a computer program which can either be explicitly specified, or else they can be "inferred", that is, deduced automatically from other parts of the program without the programmer having to write them down. I need a noun to express that.

Is "specificity" the right noun for the state or the possibility of being specified? The online dictionaries I have consulted seem to give a slightly different meaning: being clear or exact, being narrowly circumscribed instead of general. But that's not quite the meaning I need to convey.

I guess "specifiedness" would be the correct word, but it doesn't seem to exist in dictionaries. "specifiability" does exist, but puts too much emphasis on the potential of being specified, while I want to talk about the current specified or inferred status of the entities in my program. Like: "what's the specifiedness of entities X and Y? —X is specified, while Y is inferred."

  • 4
    As you say, specificity means something like "specificness" -- a measure of how specific something is, not whether it's specified or not. – Andrew Leach Mar 19 at 10:51
  • 1
    Yes@Andrew Leach; it is not about 'specified', but being 'specific'. – Ram Pillai Mar 19 at 11:24
  • Wy not ask, “Are X and Y specified?” “X is specifiied. Y is left unspecified.” Or “Are there specifications for X and Y?” ... – Jim Mar 19 at 15:28
  • Maybe . . . What's the specification status of entities X and Y? X is specified (specified = true); Y is inferred (specified = false). – Tinfoil Hat Mar 19 at 15:33

"Specificity" is used more in science than in general language.

I did have a professor in college who would write on my papers "use greater specificity" if I over-generalized in the paper.

But I rarely hear "specificity" in general conversations or lay writing.


CSF lactate ³ 4 nmol/L has high sensitivity and specificity for bacterial meningitis following craniotomy. 0 0

In addition to these tissue specificity determinants a core set of basic pathogenicity factors will be generally required for plant colonization. 0 0

The sensitivity and specificity of clinical diagnostics during five decades. 0 0

By measuring genetic divergence between populations using molecular markers, I hope to relate this host specificity to the process of incipient speciation.

| improve this answer | |
  • This doesn’t really answer the question though. – Jim Mar 19 at 16:22
  • It does not answer the question directly; I agree. It simply advises that "specificity" is probably a poor word choice for this application. I do not think it makes sense to help someone shoehorn an inappropriate word in a specific context. – Packard Mar 19 at 19:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.