Overestimate or Underestimate? What Makes the Most Sense?

Should you overestimate or underestimate when making an educated guess? Learn more about the meaning of these two related words.

Do you get confused between overestimate or underestimate? These two words are antonyms, which means they have opposite meanings. 

Once you understand the definition and etymology of the two words, you will get them right every time. This guide will break down what they mean and where they came from, so you can use them properly in your writing.

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The Definition And Etymology Of Overestimate Or Underestimate

Overestimate or underestimate

To use words properly, you must understand their definitions and where they came from. The next time overestimate or underestimate are the word of the day, you will know how to use the word properly with this information.

Definition of Overestimate

According to Merriam-Webster, overestimate has both a noun and verb use. As a verb, it means “to estimate or value too highly,” and is pronounced with a long a sound. Here are some example sentences:

  • I overestimated his abilities, and he fell short of his goal.
  • The teacher asked the students not to overestimate their math answers, but rather to find the right sum for each problem.
  • We received a tax refund because we overestimated what we owed on our quarterly tax payments.

When used as a noun, overestimate is pronounced with a short e sound at the end. It means “an estimate that is too high.” Here are some example sentences:

  • The New York company made a gross overestimate of its potential profits.
  • The overestimation on the impact of rising unemployment numbers on the economy led lawmakers to push for more help.

Synonyms for Overestimate

Words that have a similar meaning to overestimate include:

  • Overrate
  • Overvalue
  • Appreciate

Etymology of Overestimate

Overestimate is a word derived from two separate words, over and estimate. When over estimate were used regularly together, the words eventually became one word. The first known use of overestimate occurred in 1797 as a verb.

Definition of Underestimate

Underestimate is often a transitive verb. Merriam-Webster states the definition to be “to estimate as being less than the actual size, quantity, or number.” It can also mean “to place too low a value on.”

Here are some example sentences:

  • Don’t underestimate the value of paying attention in school.
  • Because he underestimated the computation, his final results were not the exact value of his investments. 

Underestimate can also have a noun use, which means “a lower value assumption of the value of something.” When someone underestimates the value, they make an underestimate or underestimation. Here are some examples:

  • The underestimation of the midpoint on the graph led to the wrong curve.
  • When stating metrics for a scientific equitation, underestimation is a dangerous mistake.

Synonyms for Underestimate

Some words with similar meanings to underestimate include:

  • Underrate
  • Undervalue
  • Cheapen

Etymology of Underestimate

Like overestimate, the word underestimate comes from the emerging of under and estimate. Instead of saying under estimate, writers will combine the two words. This was first seen in 1792.

A Final Word on Overestimate or Underestimate

If you get confused between overestimate and underestimate, remember that these words are antonyms. They mean the exact opposite.

Both overestimating and underestimating something when performing math equations or writing a scientific theorem are dangerous mistakes. Sometimes, precision is important to getting the right answer. However, there are times when estimation is appropriate, and you should know if you are over- or under-estimating.

FAQs on Overestimate or Underestimate

Are Overestimate And Underestimate Antonyms?

Yes, these two words have opposite meanings. Overestimate means to state a value that is higher than the actual value, while underestimate means to state a lower value for something.

How do you know if you overestimate or underestimate?

At a glance, determining the difference between an overestimate and an underestimate is difficult. The only way to know for sure if you have overestimated or underestimated is to find the actual value or sum. If you have good knowledge of the actual value or sum, you can tell if you have guessed too high or too low.