What Is a Percentage?

What Is a Percentage?

A percentage is a part of a whole. It expresses a part of a whole number as parts out of 100.

A percentage is shown by the symbol % (said as "percent").

Dictionary Definition

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a percentage as "a part of a whole expressed in hundredths."

A Real Example of a Percentage

A percentage is written as a number followed by the percentage symbol %:

This is 20% (said as "20 percent"). It means 20 parts out of 100.

A Real Example of What a Percentage Means

Imagine you were given 20% in a mathematics exam. You would have got 20 out of every 100 marks.

  • If there were 100 marks, you would have got 20 marks.

  • If there were 200 marks, you would have got 40 marks.

  • If there were 50 marks, you would have got 10 marks.

Visualizing Percentages

A percentage shows how many parts out of a 100.

A grid with 100 squares is a useful way of visualizing percentages.

In the grid below, 20 out of 100 squares are colored blue. 20% of the squares are blue.


The slider below shows some more examples of visualizing percentages using a grid of 100 squares.

Open the slider in a new tab

See Also

What is a percentage change? Converting percentages to fractions Converting percentages to decimals Understanding percentages ( interactive widget)