Definition of sum in English:

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Pronunciation: /səm/


1A particular amount of money: they could not afford such a sum
More example sentences
  • Is it right to spend vast sums of money funding expensive conferences?
  • Most Japanese currently hold large sums of money in secure savings accounts that yield zero interest.
  • The conman asks the person contacted to contribute a small sum of money to speed up the release of the funds.
amount, quantity, volume
amount of money, price, charge, fee, cost
2 (the sum of) The total amount resulting from the addition of two or more numbers, amounts, or items: the sum of two prime numbers
More example sentences
  • A perfect number is defined to be one which is equal to the sum of its aliquot parts.
  • In fact the Egyptians only had fractions of this type and if the answer had not involved a unit fraction then the Egyptians would have written the fractional part as the sum of unit fractions.
  • Find a right triangle having the property that the hypotenuse equals the sum of one leg plus the altitude on the hypotenuse.
(sum) total, grand total, tally, aggregate, summation
2.1The total amount of something that exists: the sum of his own knowledge
More example sentences
  • Tipped to tumble, Motherwell now surf the wave of just one loss in six games thanks to an unexpected capacity to maximise the sum of their unremarkable talents and convert it resolutely into a winning equation.
  • It's because critics of homosexuality just can't see the sum of human perfection that is gayness and all its works and ways.
  • The Bellini is an idea not the sum of its content.
entirety, totality, total, whole, aggregate, summation, beginning and end
3An arithmetical problem, especially at an elementary level.
Example sentences
  • You saw crates of certain sizes, and then you would do your sums and then do your deductions from that.
  • Have you ever wondered why your children seem to do their sums upside-down nowadays?
  • She said: ‘I still have to do my sums and see if it is still a possibility for me.’
(arithmetical) problem, calculation;
(sums) arithmetic, mathematics, math, computation

verb (sums, summing, summed)

[with object] technical
1Find the sum of (two or more amounts): if we sum these equations we obtain x
More example sentences
  • The amount of total non-structural carbohydrates was calculated by summing the amount of starch and soluble sugar.
  • Functional group abundance was calculated by summing the abundances of all species in a particular group on a sample date.
  • He found the length of an arc of the cycloid using an exhaustion proof based on dissections to reduce the problem to summing segments of chords of a circle which are in geometric progression.
1.1 [no object] (sum to) (Of two or more amounts) add up to a specified total: these additional probabilities must sum to 1
More example sentences
  • They cover all 18 autosomal chromosomes, the X chromosome, and the pseudoautosomal region of the Y chromosome; their total length summed to 2080 cM.
  • X stands for a total entropy of the galaxy that sums to zero.
  • The transition probability matrix has some special properties namely that the rows of the probabilities sums to be 1.


in sum

To sum up; in summary: this interpretation does little, in sum, to add to our understanding
More example sentences
  • So in sum: yes, the blasé reaction to Wolff's article does reflect a moderating of stances on sexual harassment, but don't gloat about it; the pendulum is still very much on the left, no matter how much you might want it to be otherwise.
  • If you believe in cultural relativism, or that crime should not be followed by punishment, or that our borders should be thrown open - in sum if you oppose traditional institutions and values - you are hardly in the mainstream.
  • So, in sum, if you like Musical Barbeque, you'll probably like this, and if you don't like Musical Barbeque, well, I'm not so sure I want you reading this blog, quite frankly.

Phrasal verbs


sum up

Give a brief summary of something: Gerard will open the debate and I will sum up
More example sentences
  • And those brief details sum up half a century in the life of Bobby Bell, so little is known about him.
  • Andrew Gimson in the Telegraph sums up precisely what this means for the election.
  • This comment precisely sums up what is expected of a historian when he writes down a narration or a report or a book.
summarize, make/give a summary of, précis, outline, give an outline of, recapitulate, review
informal recap
Law 1.1 (Of a judge) review the evidence at the end of a case, and direct the jury regarding points of law.
Example sentences
  • As the learned judge said in his summing up to the jury, motive is irrelevant; intention is important.
  • It was therefore rather surprising to me when His Honour Judge Denison summed up to the jury that any military use would do.
  • Judge Russell then sums up the facts and the arguments presented to the jury.
evaluate, assess, appraise, rate, gauge, judge, deem, adjudge, estimate, form an opinion of

sum someone/something up

Express a concise idea of the nature or character of a person or thing: selfish—that summed her up
More example sentences
  • However, she hopes she would be more realistic than Ranevskaya, though she likes her character, summing her up as ‘complex, vulnerable, selfish, very flawed, hopefully charming but emotionally all over the shop’.
  • Asked to describe Armenian music, Montreal singer Lousnak sums it up in a single word.
  • These characteristics can be summed up as elegance, if you want just one word, but their real character is drinkability.


Middle English: via Old French from Latin summa 'main part, sum total', feminine of summus 'highest'.

  • The sums you did at school and the summing up of a judge are linked by the fact they both come from Latin summa which meant both ‘main part’ and ‘total’, formed from summus ‘highest’. Summary (Late Middle English) and summit (Late Middle English) are from the same source.

Words that rhyme with sum

become, benumb, Brum, bum, chum, crumb, drum, glum, gum, ho-hum, hum, Kara Kum, lum, mum, numb, plum, plumb, Rhum, rhumb, rum, scrum, scum, slum, some, strum, stum, succumb, swum, thrum, thumb, tum, yum-yum

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: sum

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