degree of freedom

Statistics. any of the statistically independent values of a sample that are used to determine a property of the sample, as the mean or variance.
Physical Chemistry. any of the independent variables required to specify the energy of a molecule or atom.

1900–05 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
degree of freedom
1.  physics one of the minimum number of parameters necessary to describe a state or property of a system
2.  one of the independent components of motion (translation, vibration, and rotation) of an atom or molecule
3.  chem See also phase rule one of a number of intensive properties that can be independently varied without changing the number of phases in a system
4.  statistics one of the independent unrestricted random variables constituting a statistic

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
degree of freedom  
  1. Any of the independent thermodynamic variables, such as pressure, temperature, or composition, required to specify a system with a given number of phases and components.

  2. Any of the independent terms used to characterize the way a physical system can store energy. For example, a molecule consisting of two atoms can be thought of as having three degrees of freedom: one for its linear motion (as the whole molecule moves through space), one for its angular motion (as it rotates around its center of gravity) and one for its internal vibrational energy (as the atoms pull and push against each other within their chemical bond).

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Britannica

degree of freedom

in mathematics, any of the number of independent quantities necessary to express the values of all the variable properties of a system. A system composed of a point moving without constraints in space, for example, has three degrees of freedom because three coordinates are needed to determine the position of the point

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Somehow measured the degree of freedom of expression that had won or lost that week.
Writers seldom give any sign that they are aware of the degree of freedom they enjoy here.
If a simulator has two mechanisms to achieve a particular degree of freedom, engineers say the machine has an additional degree.
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