Adjective – Quantifiable & Unquantifiable
The word “quantity” comes from the Latin quantus, which means “‘How much?,’ ‘What amount?,’ or ‘What size?‘”
A quantity is a certain amount of stuff.
If you quantify something, you count it or measure it.
Something quantifiable can be quantified: it can be counted or measured.
And something unquantifiable can’t be counted or measured: it’s too large, too complicated, or both.
(In this issue, we’ll focus on both “quantifiable” and “unquantifiable.”)
Part of speech:
adjectives: “a quantifiable benefit,” “unquantifiable harm.”
Other common forms:
quantifiably, quantifiability, quantification; unquantifiably, unquantifiability.
how to use them:
“Quantifiable” and “unquantifiable” are the words we need to emphasize what can and can’t be counted in units, like points scored or lost, pounds gained or shed, dollars or minutes saved or spent, and people or groups helped or hurt.
With their Latin sound and their long, clunky syllables, these words have a tone that seems scientific or mathematical.
We can talk about good things that are quantifiable and unquantifiable, like benefits, advantages, and progress. And bad things, like risks, tolls, and damages. And neutral or mixed things, like costs, effects, impacts, outcomes, evidence, and performances.
“Facebook’s evils…are quantifiable…Facebook basically became the vector for the [Myanmar] military’s anti-Muslim propaganda campaign as it engaged in ethnic cleansing that led to the displacement of 700,000 people. It got to the point where Reuters reporters found 1,000 different posts advocating violence or dehumanizing Muslims there, and brought them to Facebook, and only then did the company take them down.”
— Ashley Feinberg and Jordan Weissman, Slate, 15 January 2020
“The setback from SARS was acute… The impact went beyond metrics such as lost working hours, mortality rates, treatment costs, consumer spending and aborted travel; there’s the unquantifiable toll of generally avoiding social contact, too.”
— Daniel Moss, Bloomberg, 18 February 2020