I want to use the word Distribution as it is used normally in the English language in a text where Distribution refers (also?) to the technical (Statistical) term. How can I do so while also marking the different use of the word, what is (functionally/semantically) the best alternative/synonym?

An example being the "Distribution of wealth" in a text discussing said distribution but employing the word Distribution as a tecnical term distinct from the way Distribution is usually used. Like Probability Distribution (also simply Distribution).

Distribution: The result of distributing; the allocation/the division of something with exactitude and methodicity.

Allocation: The result of allocating; the segregation of a set of things and their placement or establishment in a defined space.

The meanings of Distribution and Allocation seem to be different even if thesauri list them as synonyms and the defintion of Distribution employees Allocation. I am really straining at a gnat but I would like the nuances and the feelings evoked by a synonym to be as close as possible to Distribution.

  • 1
    Once you say "distribution of wealth," haven't you already set a different context from "statistical distribution"? Your readers are smart! Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 0:34
  • @YosefBaskin Which means the answer is to simply define the object (In this example it is the wealth) of the action (to distribute) that the noun (the distribution) indicates? To distribute (or I distribute) wealth: To distribute is the action indicated by distribution which means I just need to specify what is to distributed (wealth here is the object)? Is it clear in a text speaking about/with Statistical Distributions that whenever someone speak of Distribution of X they are employing distribution as a regular word? Is it no problem that in the same text Distribution is a technical term? Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 0:51
  • I agree with @YosefBaskin. From your context, your readers will know what you mean by distribution, despite the fact that it could be a statistical term.
    – mankowitz
    Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 1:15
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    Wealth distribution is being used in exactly the same way as probability distribution.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 11:34
  • 'Distribution of wealth' defaults to 'how well off various sectors etc are', not Robin-Hood hand-outs. The stative sense, not the active. And as Phil Sweet implies, 'statistical distributions' is a set including say 'distribution of wealth, 2027, Elbonia'. Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 14:51

4 Answers 4


Rather than find a synonym for distribution in its non-statistic sense, I would use statistical distribution whenever I intended the technical statistical term and when not, simply distribution.

  • Seems a good solution, especially if combined with “distribution of wealth” for the other sense.
    – David
    Commented Mar 15 at 20:18

To me, distribution in the colloquial sense is the opposite of the statistical distribution. When you say "distribution of wealth", you are implying that some have more wealth than others. When you talk about distributing alms to the poor, you are attempting to level something that is inherently unequal.

Allocation also lacks the connotation of evenness or fairness. Everyone gets an allocation of goods, but there is no reason to believe that everyone gets the same amount.

To your question, if you are asking what word could be used to replace distribution, it depends on your context.

IF you are describing a bell curve, you could say that the results are predictably spaced, or tend to fall within expected ranges, or that they have a normal distribution.

If you are talking about cutting a pie into several pieces so that several people can share, you could say that each person gets their share of the pie or is entitled to their allotment or gets a slice or allocation.

  • To me allocation seems to be the result of a person actively and intently allocating something. Distribution seems more objective (independent from human consciousness) and more passive. The distribution of Grades and the allocation of Grades seem to have a different meaning. Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 11:19
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    Wealth is not distributed actively in any appreciable quantity. When funds are distributed, we call them funds, not wealth. Wealth is created, or perhaps acquired from others unwillingly. So wealth distribution only refers to the formal statistical idea of what a distribution is.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 11:34
  • @PhilSweet Is it no problem that in the same text Distribution is also a technical term? Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 17:35

One way would be to say "the wealth distribution," rather than "the distribution of wealth." That makes it clear that you mean the distribution pertaining to wealth, rather than the process by which wealth is distributed.

  • But is incredibly ugly.
    – David
    Commented Mar 15 at 20:15

Better synonyms for distribution as the result of distributing or handing out something would be dispersal or speading (dissemination too, although in modern usage that is mostly used for distribution of information).

Allocation is a form of distribution that deliberately matches the thing/things to be handed out to a specific target person/group/project/department.

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