# What does this use of 'median' mean? [closed]

If you're not sure what technology to get good at, get good at programming. That has been the source of the median startup for the last 30 years, and this is probably not going to change in the next 10.

In this context, what does the word 'median' mean? The middle number? Of what?

• I'd guess it's intended as a fancy way of saying "average" in its non-technical sense of common, ordinary, typical; or another way of saying "middling". I can't find any references on this misuse or any suitable definitions of median. Regardless, you're safe regarding it as average, common, or typical. Commented Apr 24 at 17:02
• It is very apt respond to this passage by asking 'The middle number? Of what?', but why do you think that the people on this site know what the author had in mind (or indeed whether the author had anything definite in mind)? Commented Apr 24 at 17:03
• Analysing this loose of the word is unlikely to illuminate any general feature of English language and usage. Commented Apr 24 at 17:07
• @Lambie, just a typo: this loose use of the word. The meaning of the word requires a context that provides the dimension for which the median is calculated; if the dimension is not specified, then the word is used loosely. Commented Apr 24 at 20:51
• @jsw29 Hi. I was asking 'The middle number? Of what?' because I'm not sure if 'median' here really means its math definition. I kind of agree with Stuart that it's just another way of saying 'typical', but I failed to find any evidence in dictionaries. Commented Apr 25 at 2:04

I believe it’s meaning is equivalent to the math/science definition of note/:

Mean the average of a group of numbers added up individually and then divided by the amount of numbers. Mean of 7, 10, 13, and 6 is 9

Median the middle number when all the numbers are listed sequentially. Median of 5, 13, 10, 23, and 35 is 13

Mode the number in a group of numbers most repeates. The mode of 7, 7, 8, 10, 12 is 7

The median is often used to remove the skew based on large quantities off the bell curve.

So in your example, the median company is somewhere between, say, a restaurant and a Fortune 500 company. The mean would be a less specific choice because there are way more restaurants than Fortune 500 companies. Using median reduces ambiguity without using the term “mean” which might confuse the average person (pun intended).

• The OP knows what median means; it is precisely because he knows the meaning of the word that he is puzzled by its use here. Speaking of a median, as this answer itself makes clear, requires us to be dealing with something that is expressed in numbers, and the passage gives us no idea what that is. Does the author have in mind a startup with the median market valuation, or with the median annual revenue, or with the median number of employees, or . . . ? Commented Apr 24 at 21:02