Multinom {stats}R Documentation

The Multinomial Distribution


Generate multinomially distributed random number vectors and compute multinomial probabilities.


rmultinom(n, size, prob)
dmultinom(x, size = NULL, prob, log = FALSE)



vector of length K of integers in 0:size.


number of random vectors to draw.


integer, say N, specifying the total number of objects that are put into K boxes in the typical multinomial experiment. For dmultinom, it defaults to sum(x).


numeric non-negative vector of length K, specifying the probability for the K classes; is internally normalized to sum 1. Infinite and missing values are not allowed.


logical; if TRUE, log probabilities are computed.


If x is a K-component vector, dmultinom(x, prob) is the probability

P(X[1]=x[1], … , X[K]=x[k]) = C * prod(j=1 , …, K) p[j]^x[j]

where C is the ‘multinomial coefficient’ C = N! / (x[1]! * … * x[K]!) and N = sum(j=1, …, K) x[j].
By definition, each component X[j] is binomially distributed as Bin(size, prob[j]) for j = 1, …, K.

The rmultinom() algorithm draws binomials X[j] from Bin(n[j], P[j]) sequentially, where n[1] = N (N := size), P[1] = p[1] (p is prob scaled to sum 1), and for j ≥ 2, recursively, n[j] = N - sum(k=1, …, j-1) X[k] and P[j] = p[j] / (1 - sum(p[1:(j-1)])).


For rmultinom(), an integer K x n matrix where each column is a random vector generated according to the desired multinomial law, and hence summing to size. Whereas the transposed result would seem more natural at first, the returned matrix is more efficient because of columnwise storage.


dmultinom is currently not vectorized at all and has no C interface (API); this may be amended in the future.

See Also

Distributions for standard distributions, including dbinom which is a special case conceptually.


rmultinom(10, size = 12, prob = c(0.1,0.2,0.8))

pr <- c(1,3,6,10) # normalization not necessary for generation
rmultinom(10, 20, prob = pr)

## all possible outcomes of Multinom(N = 3, K = 3)
X <- t(as.matrix(expand.grid(0:3, 0:3))); X <- X[, colSums(X) <= 3]
X <- rbind(X, 3:3 - colSums(X)); dimnames(X) <- list(letters[1:3], NULL)
round(apply(X, 2, function(x) dmultinom(x, prob = c(1,2,5))), 3)

[Package stats version 3.3.2 Index]