Breaking Down Data Analysis vs Data Analytics: A Look at the Suffix

“Analysis” and “analytics” are extremely similar words… I mean, just the word-ending is different: “-sis” vs “-tics”

Since the end of the words is where the difference lies (otherwise, there wouldn’t be two of them, right?), why not go find out what each suffix might indicate to get some clues as to what the difference between the words are?

I’m going to start with “analysis”.

Then I’m going to move to “analytic”.

The final stop before I make a summary conclusion will be the word “analytics”.

Let’s go!


Here’s something cool from on the “-sis” suffix:

”-sis” is a suffix that forms abstract nouns of action, process, state, condition, etc. from verbs

My interpretation: “-sis” noun-ifies verbs. It takes the essential action of a verb and turns it into a concept… a concept of action, process, state, or condition.

Come to think of it, “analysis” is sort of a verb-y noun, isn’t it? “We’re going to ‘do data analysis’…“, we say.

“Do” is the verb.

“Data” is an adjective that tells “what kind”.

“Analysis” is the noun.

Even as a noun though, there’s a sense of action involved with data analysis. It’s just captured grammatically in this intangible, conceptual sense of a noun.

That’s because the verb that “analysis” noun-ifies is “analyze”, which means “to separate into constituent parts or elements”.

From the Definition

In dictioary terms, the word analysis encapsulates the idea of breaking something down.

It’s the opposite of synthesis.

Synthesis is the process of composing separate things together into a new, combined [thing].

Analysis is the process of taking [something] and *de*composing it into its component parts.

Analysis uses partitioning and dividing and restructuring and rearranging to examine and determine information.

Applied to data, then, analysis is the process of taking a data set apart, inspecting individual segments at a time, looking for the parts in the whole so that we can understand the information it contains.


Here’s where it gets slightly more interesting. Change “analytics” to “analytic” for me real quick…

Again, from on the “-tic” suffix:

a suffix forming adjectives from other parts of speech, especially in the formation of adjectives from nouns with stems in “-sis”; equivalent in meaning to “-ic”

Here’s the gist: If you’ve got a “-sis” noun (like “analysis”), you can make a descriptor word out if it by switching the word ending to “-tic”. And for all intents and purposes, “-tic” and “-ic” do exactly the same thing.

Analysis, the noun, becomes analytic, an adjective.

From the Definition

“Analytic” just means that whatever we’re describing has to do with analysis (breaking something down), as opposed to synthesis (building something up).

While “analytic” as a definition isn’t extremely interesting (in my opinion), it does act as the bridge in my mind between the “-sis” suffix and our destiation suffix: “-ics”.

So let’s cross the bridge and see where we land…


Switch “Anlytic” (the adjective) back to “Analytics”.

Here, my friends, is where things get cool (if you’re a word nerd).

”-ics” is… > a suffix of nouns that denote a body of facts, knowledge, principles, etc., usually corresponding to adjectives ending in -ic

Here we go: Suppose you’ve got an adjective that has the ending “-ic” (analytic…which as we saw, basically just means “having something to do with analysis”).

If you go from “-ic” to “-ics”, what happens? You just noun-ified the adjective.

And with that noun-ification, you’ve brought new connotations to the word. Suddenly there’s a sense of encapsulating a body of facts, knowledge, principles, and so on.

Analytics then, denotes the body of facts, knowledge, principles, etc. of something pertaining toanalysis.


What We’ve Uncovered

If I had summarize what we’ve uncovered, it’d be this: Analytics is the science of analysis. Analytics encompases the corpus of understanding we have about analysis…it’s the techniques and processes and principles for breaking things down.

Even though analysis and analytics are both nouns, they aren’t “the same thing”. The concept of breaking something down (analysis) is different than the science or method for doing that breaking down (analytics).

Analysis is the end-goal (okay, understanding, interpreting, making inferences and predictions and decisions might be the end-end goal, but still…). Analytics is the way we get there.

In conclusion,

  • Analysis is a noun that encompasses the concept and idea of breaking something down. Data analysis is the concept of taking a data set and reforming it in such a way as to understand it… to see patterns and form conclusions from it.

  • Analytic, as an adjective, simply means that some other noun has to do with analysis. We use the term, “an analytic approach”, for example… meaning that the approach we’re taking has to do with breaking something down, decomposing it, shifting it around, etc.

  • Analytics is a noun that shifts the word “analytic” into a word that denotes the body of facts… the knowledge about… the principles for: analysis. Analytics is about methodology. It’s about the approach to performing analysis. It’s the science of analysis.

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