a standard of excellence, achievement, etc., against which similar things must be measured or judged: The new hotel is a benchmark in opulence and comfort.
any standard or reference by which others can be measured or judged: The current price for crude oil may become the benchmark.
Computers. an established point of reference against which computers or programs can be measured in tests comparing their performance, reliability, etc.
Surveying. Usually, bench mark. a marked point of known or assumed elevation from which other elevations may be established. Abbreviation: BM
of, pertaining to, or resulting in a benchmark: benchmark test, benchmark study.
verb (used with object)
to test (something) in order to develop a standard: IT benchmarked the new software.
to measure (something) against a standard: executive salaries benchmarked against the industry.
Also, bench mark.

1835–45; bench + mark1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
benchmark (ˈbɛntʃˌmɑːk)
1.  BM a mark on a stone post or other permanent feature, at a point whose exact elevation and position is known: used as a reference point in surveying
2.  a.  a criterion by which to measure something; standard; reference point
 b.  (as modifier): a benchmark test
3.  to measure or test against a benchmark: the firm benchmarked its pay against that in industry

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

"surveyor's point of reference," 1838, from a specialized surveyors' use of bench; figurative sense is from 1884.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
Though it'll focus on ocean issues, the benchmarking pattern may be of use in related disciplines.
But it is not easy to see who will be brave enough to fight the benchmarking trend.
Benchmarking is probably one of the biggest sources of unhappiness in today's western societies.
But benchmarking employees, and then paying them different rates, can turn out to be a minefield if handled badly.
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