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, fraction of a whole number expressed in hundredths. The term "percentage" is derived from the Latin per centum, meaning "per hundred," so the term represents fractions with the denominator 100. Thus, 20 percent means 20/100. Usually represented by the symbol %, percentage computations are commonly used today in finance and industry to calculate interest rates, costs, prices, profits, and so on; by the government to determine taxation; and by scientists to evaluate data.

To find the percentage of a number—for example, 20 percent of 40—20 must be changed to a common fraction (20/100) or to a decimal (.20) and the figure multiplied by the whole (40); thus


To calculate the percentage relationship of one number (4) to another (16), the former is divided by the latter and multiplied by 100; thus

4 ÷ 16 = .25, or 25 percent


If it is known that a number such as 8 is 5 percent of the principal number, the principal is found by dividing 8 by .05 to yield 160. See Arithmetic; Statistics.

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Last modified: May 13, 2001