In math and science, a coefficient is a constant term related to the properties of a product. In the equation that measures friction, for example, the number that always stays the same is the coefficient.

In plain English, coefficient means “joining together to produce a result.” Sometimes people use the word to talk about social phenomena, like the coefficient factors of vanity and self-loathing in a celebrity’s alcoholic demise. But mostly you’ll encounter it in math and science. In algebra, the coefficient is the number that you multiply a variable by, like the 4 in 4x=y. In chemistry, when you see a number in front of a chemical like 2H2o, you’re looking at the coefficient.

Definitions of coefficient
  1. noun

    a constant number that serves as a measure of some property or characteristic

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    absorptance, absorption coefficient, coefficient of absorption

    a measure of the rate of decrease in the intensity of electromagnetic radiation (as light) as it passes through a given substance; the fraction of incident radiant energy absorbed per unit mass or thickness of an absorber
    coefficient of drag, drag coefficient

    the ratio of the drag on a body moving through air to the product of the velocity and the surface area of the body
    coefficient of friction

    the ratio of the weight of an object being moved along a surface and the force that maintains contact between the object and the surface
    coefficient of mutual induction, mutual inductance

    a measure of the induction between two circuits; the ratio of the electromotive force in a circuit to the corresponding change of current in a neighboring circuit; usually measured in henries
    coefficient of self induction, self-inductance

    the ratio of the electromotive force produced in a circuit by self-induction to the rate of change of current producing it, expressed in henries

    (physics) a coefficient that expresses how much of a specified property is possessed by a specified substance
    coefficient of expansion, expansivity

    the fractional change in length or area or volume per unit change in temperature at a given constant pressure
    coefficient of reflection, reflectance, reflection factor, reflectivity

    the fraction of radiant energy that is reflected from a surface
    transmission, transmittance

    the fraction of radiant energy that passes through a substance
    absolute viscosity, coefficient of viscosity, dynamic viscosity

    a measure of the resistance to flow of a fluid under an applied force
    weight, weighting

    (statistics) a coefficient assigned to elements of a frequency distribution in order to represent their relative importance
    coefficient of elasticity, elastic modulus, modulus of elasticity

    (physics) the ratio of the applied stress to the change in shape of an elastic body
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    a number representing a quantity assumed to have a fixed value in a specified mathematical context

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