In statistics, an estimator is a rule for calculating an estimate of a given quantity based on observed data: thus the rule and its result (the estimate) are distinguished.
There are point and interval estimators. The point estimators yield single-valued results, although this includes the possibility of single vector-valued results and results that can be expressed as a single function. This is in contrast to an interval estimator, where the result would be a range of plausible values (or vectors or functions).
Statistical theory is concerned with the properties of estimators; that is, with defining properties that can be used to compare different estimators (different rules for creating estimates) for the same quantity, based on the same data. Such properties can be used to determine the best rules to use under given circumstances. However, in robust statistics, statistical theory goes on to consider the balance between having good properties, if tightly defined assumptions hold, and having less good properties that hold under wider conditions.