Word of the Week: Stochastic

Word: stochastic

Pronunciation: stə-KA-stik

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: randomly determined; having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

How about another scientific word for your list? This week’s vocabulary word jumped out at me while I was reading a paper for an Ecology test, and I realized that although I had already seen it a couple of times, it hadn’t yet occurred to me to include it in my Word of the Week segment. Perhaps that’s because I’ve only ever seen it in academic writing, which makes sense because it’s a statistics term. Still, I think it’s interesting enough to warrant a spot on my vocabulary list. After all, what’s fiction without a few random and unpredictable events?

A “stochastic” event is one that has a random probability of occurring. The word comes from the Greek adjective stokhastikós, which in turn is derived from the verb stokházomai, meaning “to aim at” or “to guess”. This verb stems from the noun stokhós, which means “aim”.

Whenever the word “stochastic” appears in an academic paper I’m reading, it’s always being used to explain a mathematically random pattern observed in the results. Despite its primary use as a statistical term, I believe this adjective could work to describe random non-scientific occurrences as well. If you’re looking for a new and/or advanced word to define the unpredictable events in your stories, “stochastic” may be an interesting alternative to consider! Good luck!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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