Definition of proportion in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /prəˈpôrSH(ə)n/


1A part, share, or number considered in comparative relation to a whole: the proportion of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is rising
More example sentences
  • Improbable though it sounds, this attitude appears to be shared by a proportion of companies in almost every sector of the British economy.
  • What I said was they were given proportionally, and the member's proportion was correct.
  • There is also little agreement over what proportion of a prison population needs to be locked up in this way.
part, portion, amount, quantity, bit, piece, percentage, fraction, section, segment, share
1.1The relationship of one thing to another in terms of quantity, size, or number; the ratio: the proportion of exams to schoolwork the bleach can be diluted with water in the proportion one part bleach to ten parts water
More example sentences
  • Thus the ratio of the proportions of deleterious mutations and nonsynonymous sites to that at synonymous sites is 6.6: 1.
  • Medieval theories of ratios and proportions and of the intension and remission of forms were applied to problems of motion.
  • The odds ratio is the same whichever way round we look at the table, but the difference and ratio of proportions are not.
ratio, distribution, relative amount/number;
1.2 (proportions) The comparative measurements or size of different parts of a whole: the view of what constitutes perfect bodily proportions changes from one generation to the next
More example sentences
  • Eyes with choroidal neovascularisation may exhibit different proportions of classic and occult leakage.
  • The emphasis on correct proportions, angles, different values and sheens have created one of the most intriguing collections in the industry.
  • Thinking back, I could see their resemblance in some ways to the starlings I knew, though they were notably different in structure, proportions, and behavior.
1.3 (proportions) Dimensions; size: the room, despite its ample proportions, seemed too small for him
More example sentences
  • To my mind this was the defining moment in the great India-Pakistan cricketing divide when contests assumed proportions and dimensions other than mere sport.
  • She was small; petite, some might say, in terms of proportions.
  • Her relationships assume other proportions even as the country goes through the throes of upheaval.
1.4The correct, attractive, or ideal relationship in size or shape between one thing and another or between the parts of a whole: perceptions of color, form, harmony, and proportion
More example sentences
  • Dürer, the first artist in the North to take up these studies, was obsessed throughout his life by the search for ideal proportion.
  • Fashion may have changed over the years, but the pursuit of that ideal body proportion has not.
  • The curtain style can make or break the total harmony and proportion of a room, and we are constantly asked how to choose the most appropriate style for a window.
balance, symmetry, harmony, correspondence, correlation, agreement


[with object] formal
Adjust or regulate (something) so that it has a particular or suitable relationship to something else: a life after death in which happiness can be proportioned to virtue
More example sentences
  • The results of these and previous studies have enabled the authors to establish a system of proportioning the asphalt mixture, which is suitable for application in the various climate areas of China.
  • It's a system they've worked out proportioning points based on pedigree and performance.
  • To me it smatters of human beings proportioning human qualities of emotion and behaviour to an animal.



in proportion

According to a particular relationship in size, amount, or degree: each region was represented in proportion to its population
More example sentences
  • Once they compensated for this response, the team deciphered the crumpled sheet's behavior and found that the force required for compression increases in proportion to the size of the scrunched sheet raised to a negative power.
  • This pair of 3D models show what a man would look like if his body parts were sized in proportion to the area of the brain concerned with its sensory perception or its movement.
  • A big note needs a big stick to create the correct effect and the sizes go down in proportion with the notes.
1.1In comparison with; in relation to: the cuckoo’s eggs are unusually small in proportion to its size
More example sentences
  • Through much of the eighteenth century, muntins, the thin bars that divide panes of glass in a window sash, were relatively shallow in proportion to their depth.
  • Modulation involves raising or lowering the frequency of the carrier wave in proportion to the analogue signal.
  • It seems that the risks then are higher in proportion to the actual benefit these masts will provide.
1.2In the correct or appropriate relation to the size, shape, or position of other things: her figure was completely in proportion
More example sentences
  • He said other studies of female attractiveness showed that when images of real women are examined, whether their figure is in proportion was considered the most important feature.
  • The argument for authenticity also hinges on the assumption that the footprints show a foot skeleton unique in proportion relative to human feet.
  • Accuracy in proportion and a high level of anatomical detail are equally important.
1.3Correctly or realistically regarded in terms of relative importance or seriousness: the problem has to be kept in proportion
More example sentences
  • By all accounts, it was an isolated incident involving at worst only one or two people in a crowd of 1,600, so it must be kept in proportion.
  • However, the threat must be kept in proportion.
  • Impressive as the quantities of imports from outside Europe undoubtedly were, they still need to be kept in proportion.

out of proportion

In the wrong relation to the size, shape, or position of other things: the sculpture seemed out of proportion to its surroundings
More example sentences
  • The proposed nursery, which is on a separate site, introduces yet another over-large feature which is out of proportion to the existing village.
  • Coming from a small country like England, it's both overwhelming and awesome to arrive in a land that is so massively out of proportion to my day to day experiences.
  • The steel and glass facade faces a historic brick building, rendering it completely out of proportion.
2.1Greater or more serious than is necessary or appropriate: the award was out of all proportion to the alleged libel
More example sentences
  • For instance, the amount of anger vented upon her has, in my view, been out of proportion; even to what was, admittedly, a serious offense on her part.
  • The verbal spat was quite out of proportion to whatever crime I had committed.
  • Yet the government's own data suggest that the fear is out of proportion to the threat.
2.2Wrongly or unrealistically regarded in terms of relative importance or seriousness.
Example sentences
  • That's the problem with assigning numbers or stars: their relative importance gets blown out of proportion.
  • Maria said she kept ‘catastrophising’ everything and even the most minor upsets were blown completely out of proportion.
  • I don't know when they think we should have paid the rates as I haven't had the bill, but it can't have been more than a week or so overdue so a summons seems completely out of proportion.

sense of proportion

The ability to judge the relative importance or seriousness of things.
Example sentences
  • While it is important to document and acknowledge the shortcomings of public figures, it is also important to maintain a sense of proportion.
  • It is important to keep a sense of proportion about these things and, it seems to me, there are times when our elders and betters lose the run of themselves.
  • Thus Herodotus tried by means of his reportage to consolidate the most important message of Greek ethics: restraint, a sense of proportion and moderation.





Late Middle English: from Old French, from Latin proportio(n-), from pro portione 'with respect to (its or a person's) share'.

Words that rhyme with proportion

abortion, apportion, caution, contortion, distortion, extortion, portion, retortion, torsion

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pro·por·tion

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.