Nominal scale

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Nominal scale
  • A measurement system that assigns names, labels, or categories to the possible values of a variable, such that the set of names does not imply a particular order or hierarchy.
  • The assigned names must be mutually exclusive.
  • One of four levels of measurement.
  • A variable measured on a nominal scale is known as categorical or qualitative.

Although a variable coded using a nominal scale may appear numeric (e.g., gender coded as female=1, male=2), the numbers should be used only as labels, such that addition/subtraction and multiplication/division are not appropriate.


The following are examples of nominal variables:

  • Gender (male, female)
  • Handedness (left, right)
  • Eye color (brown, blue, green, hazel)
  • Online workshop participants' country of origin

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Web Resources

  • Online Statistics: An Interactive Multimedia Course of Study, Chapter: 1. Introduction, Section: Levels of Measurement.
  • Wikipedia's Level of measurement, Nominal scale.


Portions of this entry were adapted from