Majority

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Circumstances are the rulers of the weak;
They are the instruments of the wise.
Samuel Lover

Definitions

  • 1 obsolete : the quality or state of being greater
  • 2 a : the age at which full civil rights are accorded
b : the status of one who has attained this age
  • 3 a : a number or percentage equaling more than half of a total <a majority of voters> <a two-thirds majority>
b : the excess of a majority over the remainder of the total : margin <won by a majority of 10 votes>
c : the greater quantity or share <the majority of the time>
  • 4 : the group or political party having the greater number of votes (as in a legislature)
  • 5 : the military office, rank, or commission of a major

Description

A majority, also known as a simple majority in the U.S., is a subset of a group consisting of more than half of the group. This should not be confused with a plurality, which is a subset having the largest number of parts. A plurality is not necessarily a majority, as the largest subset may be less than half of the entire group. In British English, majority and plurality are often used as synonyms; it can also refer to the margin of vote separating the first-place finisher from the second-place finisher, so that a candidate who wins by 1000 votes may be said to have received "a majority of 1000 votes". The term "overall majority" is used in British English to refer to the difference between the number of votes received by the winner and the combined votes cast for all other candidates. The term "absolute majority" is used to indicate more than fifty percent of the vote.

For example, in a hypothetical group of 40 athletes there are:

  • 15 association football players
  • 10 sprinters
  • 9 marathon runners
  • 6 table tennis players

In this group, a majority would consist of more than half the total number of athletes, or 21 athletes. The group of all ball sport players together (15 football players + 6 table tennis players = 21) comprise a majority. However, football players, 15 in number, comprise a plurality, not a majority. In British English usage, football players would be described as having a majority of 5 (15 - 10) over sprinters, no individual sport has an absolute majority or an overall majority, and ball players have an overall majority of 2 (21 - 19) over the other sports.

See also