Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

more/bigger/greater than the sum of its parts

Describes something made up of a large collection of things or people in which the total unit is more important, impressive, successful, etc., than its components are individually. America is certainly bigger than the sum of its parts. The global social networking site, so intrinsically connected to and supported by users, is certainly more than just the sum of its parts.
See also: big, greater, more, of, part, sum

zero-sum game

A situation, process, competition, or outcome in which the winner's gain is exactly equal to the loser's loss. Poker is a zero-sum game because the amount of money won by one player is equivalent to the amount lost by the other players.
See also: game

in sum

As a final brief, concluding point. In sum, if we do not address this issue now, it will become insurmountable in a few years' time.
See also: sum

sum and substance

a summary; the gist. Can you quickly tell me the sum and substance of your proposal? In trying to explain the sum and substance of the essay, Thomas failed to mention the middle name of the hero.
See also: and, substance, sum

sum (something) up

to give a summary of something. I would like to sum this lecture up by listing the main points I have covered. It is time for me to sum up. She summed up the president's speech in three sentences.
See also: sum, up

sum and substance

The essence or gist of something, as in The sum and substance of their platform is financial conservatism. This redundant expression-both sum and substance here mean "essence"-has probably survived owing to alliteration. Shakespeare used it in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (4:1): "My riches are these poor habiliments [clothes], Of which if you should here disfurnish me, You take the sum and substance that I have."
See also: and, substance, sum

sum total

The entirety, everything, as in I spent all day in the kitchen and the sum total of my efforts is this cake. [Mid-1600s]
See also: sum, total

sum up

Present the substance of, summarize, as in They always sum up the important news in a couple of minutes, or That expletive sums up my feelings about the matter. [Early 1600s]
See also: sum, up

a zero-sum game

If a situation is a zero-sum game, the advantage that one person gains from it must have an equal disadvantage for someone else. The idea that foreign investment is a zero-sum game — that one country's gain is another's loss — is mistaken. Note: Other nouns are sometimes used instead of game. According to Reed, employee benefits are a zero-sum gain. If costs for one benefit rise, it's often at the expense of another, such as paid vacation and health insurance. Note: A zero-sum game is one in which the winnings and losses of all the players add up to zero.
See also: game

be greater/more than the ˌsum of its ˈparts

be better or more effective as a group than you would think just by looking at the individual members of the group: After their victory, the captain was full of praise for his team, saying that it was a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
See also: greater, more, of, part, sum

in ˈsum

(formal) used to introduce a short statement of the main points of a discussion, speech, etc: In sum, there are significant gaps in technological development across countries.
See also: sum

sum up

1. To present the substance of something in a condensed form; summarize something: At the end of the radio program, they sum up the day's news. Here's what I learned—I'll sum it up for you. At the end of the lecture, the professor summed up.
2. To describe or assess something concisely: This poem sums up my feelings perfectly.
3. To add some set of numbers together: The teacher challenged the students to sum up the numbers from 1 to 100 as fast as possible. I wrote down all of our expenses for the week and summed them up.
4. To calculate something, especially by addition: We need to sum up our total costs for this trip. I'm sure this answer is correct—I summed it up myself.
See also: sum, up
References in classic literature ?
My lord," she said, "I know that the late vizir, your father, bought me for 10,000 gold pieces, and though I have diminished in value since, I should still fetch a large sum.
Asking to see her, I found she was of incomparable beauty, and was being sold by Noureddin, the son of your late vizir, to whom your Majesty will remember giving a sum of 10,000 gold pieces for the purchase of a slave.
Nothing remains of the sums you gave me for your expenses, and all other sources of income are also at end, having been transferred by you to others.
Twenty-one rubles," he said, pointing to the figure twenty-one by which the total exceeded the round sum of forty-three thousand; and taking up a pack he prepared to deal.
Finally the ape-man wrote out his cheque for a larger sum than stood to his credit at the bank.
But as formerly the French paid before singing, so now they paid after having had their laugh, and they subscribed for a sum of 1,253,930 francs.
Her public contributions amounted to the sum of 216,000 florins-- a perfect godsend.
When South America, that is to say, Peru, Chili, Brazil, the provinces of La Plata and Columbia, had poured forth their quota into their hands, the sum of $300,000, it found itself in possession of a considerable capital, of which the following is a statement:
Raggles was made rather easy in his mind by the spectacle of the union between the brothers, by a small payment on the spot, and by the promise of a much larger sum speedily to be assigned to him.
Add five pounds to the sum you have named; give me five-and-twenty pounds in gold,' said the woman; 'and I'll tell you all I know.
Not a large sum for a paltry secret, that may be nothing when it's told
Congress, by the articles which compose that compact (as has already been stated), are authorized to ascertain and call for any sums of money necessary, in their judgment, to the service of the United States; and their requisitions, if conformable to the rule of apportionment, are in every constitutional sense obligatory upon the States.
Tomorrow will bring another day' and I'll help you with the sums as far as in me lies.
If you help me with the sums I'll have 'em done in time to go fishing with Milty.
I sold my hard-bought school books for ridiculous sums to second-hand bookmen.