Vocabulary: where does “benchmark” come from?

Tutoring English, you hear jargon from any discipline. The tutor mentions an origin of “benchmark.”

A word we hear so often that one might have stopped even noticing is “benchmark.” I understand it as a business term, meaning a reference from which to compare the quality or performance of other similar entities. You might measure a computer’s download time for a given file, for instance, as a benchmark, then compare it to other computers’ download times for that same file.

Although the business world has appropriated “benchmark,” the term – supposedly – doesn’t come from there. Rather, it comes from surveying: a “benchmark” is a carved reference point in a stone feature at a site, from which surveyors can make relative measurements regarding other dimensions there. Specifically, the carved reference point is a “benchmark” of height to which surrounding heights can be compared.



Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

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