DEFINITION of Discrete Distribution

A discrete distribution is a function that gives the probabilities of observable (either finite or countably infinite) pre-defined values. Unlike a continuous distribution, which probabilistically describes observable outcomes that can take any value in a continuous interval (uncountably infinite) range, a discrete distribution defines probabilities for distinct potential outcomes that do not cover any continuous interval range. Discrete distributions are frequently used in statistical modeling and computer programming.

Also known as a "discrete probability distribution."

BREAKING DOWN Discrete Distribution

Examples of discrete probability distributions include binomial distribution (with a finite set of values) and Poisson distribution (with a countably infinite set of values). The concept of probability distributions and the random variables they describe are the underpinnings of probability theory and statistical analysis.

Other Examples of Discrete Distribution

An example of a discrete distribution: rolling two dice and recording each of the probabilities of the sum being 2, 3, 4, etc., up to 12.  

A business world example: a railroad company recording probabilities of various equipment or service failures on a particular route over a particular time interval.  This discrete distribution could assist the company in allocating resources to address these issues.