2. The point at which the condition, degree, or amount of something is the most favorable: The chemistry experiment was conducted under optimum (ideal or best) conditions.
3. In biology, the most favorable condition for growth and reproduction: The optimum of the results was obtained by the students when they had ideal circumstances (perfect warmth, good soil, sunlight) for planting and growing the pumpkin seeds in their classroom.
4. The best out of a number of possible options or outcomes: From all the choices of new cars at at the dealer’s, Mary chose the optimum for herself with power steering, four doors, light blue color, and the least amount of gas needed for driving.
5. Etymology: from Latin optimum, optimus, "best"; probably related to ops, "power, resources" evolving from "richest" to "the most esteemed".
The word optimum refers to quality, not quantity. It means "best," not "greatest" or "most".
It often happens that the best is also the greatest or the most; as, "The shareholders were seeking an optimum return on their investments", which could be one reason why there is so much confusion about the meaning of the word.
Go to this Word A Day Revisited Index
so you can see more of Mickey Bach's cartoons.
Motto of German Emperor Albrecht of Habsburg (1438-1439).
Pax optima rerum, quas homini novisse datum est; pax una triumphis innumeris potior; pax, custodire salutem et cives aequare potens. -Silius Italicus (A.D. 26-A.D. 101).
"Peace is the best thing that men may know; peace is better than a thousand triumphs; peace has power to guard our lives and secure equality among fellow citizens."