Is there a word in English which would encompass both the action of increasing or decreasing [the value of] something?

I am looking at a word similar to modify, change or alter. But the first two do not denote the fact that the current value would be slightly changed and I feel the the last one is a bit general.

  • The verb change carries with it no connotation of degree. You can change something a little or a lot, and in a positive or negative direction. An antonym for to change would be to stay the same, so it appears you have your answer.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 12:12
  • I would like to where you have intended (now decided) to use the word: the sentence and the context.
    – Kris
    Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 5:12
  • At the end I decided to use two separate words (increase and decrease) because using the proposed hypernym (vary) would bring more confusion than using the two separate terms (as I had to use it).
    – obaqueiro
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 8:19
  • How about: Delta, or variance.
    – user82118
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 3:14
  • Fluctuate, fluctuation, depending on context, I like variance too
    – user153609
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 17:46

4 Answers 4


One such word (and one commonly used by scientists) is vary.

Like increase and decrease, it is not explicit whether vary is an action performed on the variable, or something that the variable "just does".

You should vary the input voltage and observe the result.



Typically in technical usage, variation represents change: variations in voltage, current, so on. Moreover, while variation can mean drastic changes, it is typically associated with small differences in state, discrete or continuous.

  • 1
    Yes, or the verb form, vary.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 17:45

If you specifically want to imply that the changes are small, vary is not entirely apt. I'd go with tweak "a fine adjustment to a mechanism or system" instead. Not to be confused with twerk, of course.



I arrived here because I had the same question. I was looking for a concise word to describe a behavior of incrementing or decrementing the value of a numeric control (I was writing code), because I was making this behavior into a class for reuse.

Because I wanted a word that also conveys the fact that the behavior moves the value from its original value a relatively small amount and it does so without discontinuities, I was coming up with words like modify, or change. Value also seems pretty good.

Ultimately I ended up deciding on 'Adjust', and because I didn't see adjust suggested yet, and I thought someone else might find it helpful, I decided to add it as an answer.

  • I don't think adjust fits most cases. It has a very narrow contextual meaning
    – Farid
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 5:50

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