Variance - short version

(1) The mean of squared deviations of individual values from the average. Is a measure of spread.

(2) Variance tells you how far of the data values are from the mean overall.

Variance - long version

Variance is a measure of how far a set of numbers is spread out. It is one of several descriptors of a probability distribution, describing how far the numbers lie from the mean (expected value). In particular, the variance is one of the moments of a distribution. In that context, it forms part of a systematic approach to distinguishing between probability distributions. While other such approaches have been developed, those based on moments are advantageous in terms of mathematical and computational simplicity.

The variance is a parameter describing in part either the actual probability distribution of an observed population of numbers, or the theoretical probability distribution of a not-fully-observed population of numbers. In the latter case a sample of data from such a distribution can be used to construct an estimate of its variance: in the simplest cases this estimate can be the sample variance.

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