independent variable

noun
1.
Mathematics. a variable in a functional relation whose value determines the value or values of other variables, as x in the relation y = 3 x 2 . Compare dependent variable ( def 1 ).
2.
Statistics. (in an experiment) a variable that is intentionally changed to observe its effect on the dependent variable. dependent variable ( def 2 ), control variable ( def 1 ).

Origin:
1850–55

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World English Dictionary
independent variable
 
n
1.  Also called: argument a variable in a mathematical equation or statement whose value determines that of the dependent variable: in y = f(x), x is the independent variable
2.  statistics See also experimental condition Also called: predictor the variable which an experimenter deliberately manipulates in order to observe its relationship with some other quantity, or which defines the distinct conditions in an experiment

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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
independent variable   (ĭn'dĭ-pěn'dənt)  Pronunciation Key 
In mathematics, a variable whose value determines the value of other variables. For example, in the formula for the area of a circle, A = πr2, r is the independent variable, as its value determines the value of the area (A). Compare dependent variable.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
Here, the independent variable is the length of the straw and the dependent
  variable is the distance traveled by the spitball.
Perhaps you would measure a different, but related dependent variable or
  evaluate a new independent variable.
The language in which the test was administered really does appear to be the
  only non-random independent variable.
Your system has to be fairly robust against incompetence, because competence is
  not an independent variable.
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