A mode is a variation of a musical scale which uses the same pattern of steps and half steps but starting on a note other than the tonic. For example, the major scale is built on a pattern of tone - tone - semi-tone - tone - tone - tone - semi-tone. The first mode of the major scale in the key of G would begin with the tonic note G, thus giving G-A-B-C-D-E-F#-G. The second mode would begin on the second note of the scale, thus would give A-B-C-D-E-F#-G. Thus each scale has a mode for each note in the scale. In order, the modes are called the Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian.

All of the above are of course definitions of the word mode. In statistical use, the mode is the most common value in a distribution of anything. For example, if we have a barrel full of bowling balls and empty them out and find the following: 5 balls weighing 10 lbs., 8 balls weighing 11 lbs., 3 balls weighing 12 lbs, and 6 balls weighing 13 lbs., the mode for this distribution would be 11lbs.

A distribution can have multiple modes. Imagine that there had been 8 balls weighing 10 lbs. Then we would have had a bi-modal distribution.

That the mode is succeptible to this little "problem" is why it is not the preferred measure of central tendency. Ideally, one would use the mean, but sometimes a mean can not be computed.



An MS-DOS command used to configure MS-DOS System Devices. Helpful for setting DOS to display more lines on the screen (mode con lines=50). Or redirecting print jobs to a serial printer (I suppose people actually did this years ago).

Output of the mode/? help screen:

Configures system devices.

Printer port: MODE LPTn[:] [COLS=c] [LINES=l] [RETRY=r]
Serial port: MODE COMm[:] [BAUD=b] [PARITY=p] [DATA=d] [STOP=s] [RETRY=r]
Device Status: MODE [device] [/STATUS]
Redirect printing: MODE LPTn[:]=COMm[:]
Prepare code page: MODE device CP PREPARE=((yyy[...]) [drive:][path]filename)
Select code page: MODE device CP SELECT=yyy
Refresh code page: MODE device CP REFRESH
Code page status: MODE device CP [/STATUS]
Display mode: MODE [display-adapter][,n]
Typematic rate: MODE CON[:] [RATE=r DELAY=d]

This one's for posterity

A mode is a mapping between symbols in an alphabet or similar writing system and sounds in a language. The pronunciation of a 'c' or an 'x' varies widely from mode to mode. Some writing systems (such as tengwar) even allow modes with either vowel points (like Hebrew or Devanagari) or full writing (vowels are letters as in Greek or Latin; these are called modes of Beleriand in the tengwar system).

In statistics, one type of average. In any numerical sample, the mode is the most frequently occurring value (or values). Thus, in the series 2,3,4,5,5,5,7,8,9,9, the mode is 5, because that is the most frequently occurring number.

(See also: mean, median)

mod = M = mode bit

mode n.

[common] A general state, usually used with an adjective describing the state. Use of the word `mode' rather than `state' implies that the state is extended over time, and probably also that some activity characteristic of that state is being carried out. "No time to hack; I'm in thesis mode." In its jargon sense, `mode' is most often attributed to people, though it is sometimes applied to programs and inanimate objects. In particular, see hack mode, day mode, night mode, demo mode, fireworks mode, and yoyo mode; also talk mode.

One also often hears the verbs `enable' and `disable' used in connection with jargon modes. Thus, for example, a sillier way of saying "I'm going to crash" is "I'm going to enable crash mode now". One might also hear a request to "disable flame mode, please".

In a usage much closer to techspeak, a mode is a special state that certain user interfaces must pass into in order to perform certain functions. For example, in order to insert characters into a document in the Unix editor vi, one must type the "i" key, which invokes the "Insert" command. The effect of this command is to put vi into "insert mode", in which typing the "i" key has a quite different effect (to wit, it inserts an "i" into the document). One must then hit another special key, "ESC", in order to leave "insert mode". Nowadays, modeful interfaces are generally considered losing but survive in quite a few widely used tools built in less enlightened times.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

A mode in species modal counterpoint is a succession of 8 traditionally white notes (i.e. notes that do not contain sharps or flats) in an ascending or descending order, beginning and ending on any white note except B. The mode of a cantus firmus in species counterpoint defines the melodic range of its counterpoint.

For each of the six possible notes to start and end on there are two possible modes. The first is the authentic ambitus which begins on a note and ends on the same note. The second is the plagal ambitus which begins on a note and ranges from the note a fifth above to a fourth below, these modes carry the prefix, hypo, and are considered to be different modes. Starting on C (Ionian), there are 12 modes in traditional modal species counterpoint:

Ionian, Hypoionian, Dorian, Hypodorian, Phrygian, Hypophrygian, Lydian, Hypolydian, Mixolydian, Hypomixolydian, Aeolian, and Hypoaeolian.

Mode (?), n. [L. modus a measure, due or proper measure, bound, manner, form; akin to E. mete: cf. F. mode. See Mete, and cf. Commodious, Mood in grammar, Modus.]


Manner of doing or being; method; form; fashion; custom; way; style; as, the mode of speaking; the mode of dressing.

The duty of itself being resolved on, the mode of doing it may easily be found. Jer. Taylor.

A table richly spread in regal mode. Milton.


Prevailing popular custom; fashion, especially in the phrase the mode.

The easy, apathetic graces of a man of the mode. Macaulay.


Variety; gradation; degree.


4. Metaph.

Any combination of qualities or relations, considered apart from the substance to which they belong, and treated as entities; more generally, condition, or state of being; manner or form of arrangement or manifestation; form, as opposed to matter.

Modes I call such complex ideas, which, however compounded, contain not in them the supposition of subsisting by themselves, but are considered as dependencies on, or affections of, substances. Locke.

5. Logic

The form in which the proposition connects the predicate and subject, whether by simple, contingent, or necessary assertion; the form of the syllogism, as determined by the quantity and quality of the constituent proposition; mood.

6. Gram.

Same as Mood.

7. Mus.

The scale as affected by the various positions in it of the minor intervals; as, the Dorian mode, the Ionic mode, etc., of ancient Greek music.

⇒ In modern music, only the major and the minor mode, of whatever key, are recognized.


A kind of silk. See Alamode, n.

Syn. -- Method; manner. See Method.


© Webster 1913.

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