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I am aware of the fact that Gosset came up with t-distribution, but what is the etymology of "t"? How did "t" end up in t-test and t-distribution?

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3 Answers 3

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It appears to have been done by Fisher as he was developing a more general theory of testing, although perhaps by Student in a letter to Fisher a couple of years before. Originally Student denoted it by $z$, although it wasn't actually in its current form at that time (that had to wait for Fisher.) If you have access, The American Statistician (1979) has a paper on this. If you don't, some brief comments are in http://jeff560.tripod.com/s.html.

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  • $\begingroup$ Could you edit in a brief summary of the main points of the linked sites into your answer, in case there's issues with them later? (For example, for some reason I cannot successfully connect to the tripod.com site at the moment.) $\endgroup$
    – R.M.
    Apr 14, 2017 at 14:15
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According to H.A. David's paper linked here, "Student's t" and "t" were first used in R.A. Fisher's 1924 paper On a Distribution Yielding the Error Functions of Several Well Known Statistics. The first occurrence is on page 809 where we see Fisher refer to "Student's curves" and uses the variable t.

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I believe it's because "t" is the last letter of both Gossett and Student, which was his pen name. Why choose the last letter? Search me.

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