Poisson {stats}R Documentation

The Poisson Distribution


Density, distribution function, quantile function and random generation for the Poisson distribution with parameter lambda.


dpois(x, lambda, log = FALSE)
ppois(q, lambda, lower.tail = TRUE, log.p = FALSE)
qpois(p, lambda, lower.tail = TRUE, log.p = FALSE)
rpois(n, lambda)


x vector of (non-negative integer) quantiles.
q vector of quantiles.
p vector of probabilities.
n number of random values to return.
lambda vector of (non-negative) means.
log, log.p logical; if TRUE, probabilities p are given as log(p).
lower.tail logical; if TRUE (default), probabilities are P[X <= x], otherwise, P[X > x].


The Poisson distribution has density

p(x) = lambda^x exp(-lambda)/x!

for x = 0, 1, 2, .... The mean and variance are E(X) = Var(X) = λ.

If an element of x is not integer, the result of dpois is zero, with a warning. p(x) is computed using Loader's algorithm, see the reference in dbinom.

The quantile is left continuous: qpois(q, lambda) is the largest integer x such that P(X <= x) < q.

Setting lower.tail = FALSE allows to get much more precise results when the default, lower.tail = TRUE would return 1, see the example below.


dpois gives the (log) density, ppois gives the (log) distribution function, qpois gives the quantile function, and rpois generates random deviates.
Invalid lambda will result in return value NaN, with a warning.


dpois uses C code contributed by Catherine Loader (see dbinom).

ppois uses pgamma.

qpois uses the Cornish–Fisher Expansion to include a skewness correction to a normal approximation, followed by a search.

rpois uses

Ahrens, J. H. and Dieter, U. (1982). Computer generation of Poisson deviates from modified normal distributions. ACM Transactions on Mathematical Software, 8, 163–179.

See Also

dbinom for the binomial and dnbinom for the negative binomial distribution.



-log(dpois(0:7, lambda=1) * gamma(1+ 0:7)) # == 1
Ni <- rpois(50, lambda = 4); table(factor(Ni, 0:max(Ni)))

1 - ppois(10*(15:25), lambda=100)  # becomes 0 (cancellation)
    ppois(10*(15:25), lambda=100, lower.tail=FALSE)  # no cancellation

par(mfrow = c(2, 1))
x <- seq(-0.01, 5, 0.01)
plot(x, ppois(x, 1), type="s", ylab="F(x)", main="Poisson(1) CDF")
plot(x, pbinom(x, 100, 0.01),type="s", ylab="F(x)",
     main="Binomial(100, 0.01) CDF")

[Package stats version 2.9.0 Index]