Probability Measure: Definition, Examples

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A probability measure gives probabilities to a sets of experimental outcomes (events). It is a function on a collection of events that assigns a probability of 0 and 1 to every event, meeting certain conditions.

The role of a probability measure is to quantify the likelihood of each outcome from each event in the σ-algebra (a collection of sets that have certain properties); Simply put, σ-algebra assigns a probability to an event (e.g. “It will rain today”) and to that event’s complement (e.g. “It will not rain today”) and the union (“It will rain today, or it won’t”) [2].

Probability Measure Examples

For a roll of one six-faced die, the sample space (Ω) = {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6}. If A = {1, 3, 5} is the event that the roll is odd, then P(A) = ½.

Uniform Continuous Example: Let’s say you wanted to pick a random number between 0 and 1, where all numbers are equally likely. The sample space is the closed interval [0, 1]; The probability for any interval within [0, 1] is the length of I. Generally speaking, the uniform probability measure on [a, b] can be defined as [3]:
uniform probability measure

Formal Definition of Probability Measure

A probability measure P on F is a real-valued function P on F with three properties [2]:

  1. P(A) ≥ 0, for A ∈ F
  2. P(Ω) = 1, P(∅) = 0,
  3. For the disjoint sequence of events (i.e. Ai ∩ Aj = ∅ for i ≠ j) then:
    probability measure
  4. Where:

    1. ∅ = the empty set,
    2. ∩ = intersection,
    3. ∪ = union,
    4. Ac = complement (the set of outcomes in Ω which are not in A),
    5. ∈ = is an element of (is in the set),
    6. F = a collection of subsets of Ω
    7. σ-field = A collection of subsets of Ω is a σ-field if:
      • Ω ∈ F
      • A ∈ F → AcF
      • AnF for n = 1, 2, 3, … ∪ (n = 1→∞) AnF


    [1] Probability. Retrieved March 11, 2021 from:
    [2] Kennedy, T. Probability measure and random variables. Retrieved March 11, 2021 from:
    [3] Probabilities. Retrieved March 11, 2021 from:

Stephanie Glen. "Probability Measure: Definition, Examples" From Elementary Statistics for the rest of us!

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