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What is the difference between maximum/minimum and maximal/minimal?

September 14th, 2011, by Courtney Cummings

Often, these two sets of terms are used interchangeably or incorrectly, so we must take care to differentiate between the sets and use them appropriately. Please review the following:

Maximum - the greatest possible amount or the greatest allowable amount (exact)

Maximal – hardly ever used outside of mathematics/engineering

Minimum - the lowest possible amount or the lowest allowable amount (exact)

Minimal – very little, or not very much at all (inexact)

Please note that there is no “minimal” equivalent for “maximum” in English.

Article written by Courtney C