dif·​fer ˈdi-fər How to pronounce differ (audio)
differed; differing ˈdi-f(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce differ (audio)

intransitive verb

: to be unlike or distinct in nature, form, or characteristics
the law of one state differs from that of another
: to change from time to time or from one instance to another : vary
the number of cookies in a box may differ
: to be of unlike or opposite opinion : disagree
they differ on religious matters
I beg to differ with your interpretation.

Example Sentences

The two schools differ in their approach to discipline. my brother and I differ markedly in the way we handle money
Recent Examples on the Web Subscription measurement may differ between the companies, but Tencent Video’s decline caught market analysts by surprise. Patrick Frater, Variety, 17 May 2023 Despite the differing views, officials have stressed the importance of projecting cohesion as Ukraine attempts to put itself in the strongest position possible for potential negotiations with Russia. Emily Rauhala, Washington Post, 14 May 2023 Read more: Multnomah County Board of Commissioners candidates differ on approaches to homelessness, addiction Three seats on the Portland school board are up for election this cycle, but only one is contested. oregonlive, 10 May 2023 Among the issues: In transitioning from the differing strike zones of the individual human umpires, someone needs to decide what the new, uniform strike zone should be. Jimmy Golen, Chicago Tribune, 9 May 2023 Bug zappers differ depending on whether they’re made for indoor or outdoor spaces. Jenna Clark, Popular Mechanics, 4 May 2023 Duties differ at each place, and accommodations run the gamut from plush and multi-floor on-land spaces to rustic offshore towers that are completely off the grid. Laura Kiniry, Smithsonian Magazine, 28 Apr. 2023 Canal killings trial:'Immeasurable' pain: Family of victims describe impact as judge mulls penalty Expert: Issue is what shaped Miller's morality Cunningham began his testimony Thursday by outlining how moral culpability differed from criminal responsibility. Lane Sainty, The Arizona Republic, 27 Apr. 2023 Among those, there are multiple variants that differ in size, connectivity, design, and price. Corey Gaskin, Ars Technica, 27 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'differ.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English differren, differen, borrowed from Middle French & Latin; Middle French differer "to be different," borrowed (with conjugational change) from Latin differre "to carry away in varying directions, spread abroad, postpone, delay, be unlike or distinct," from dif-, assimilated form of dis- dis- + ferre "to carry, convey"

Note: The meanings of Latin differre, in particular the sense "to be unlike or distinct," copy those of Greek diaphérein, formed with the cognate verb phérein "to carry." English differ is not distinct etymologically from defer entry 1; the two were originally variants with stress on either the first or last syllable, with the meanings "delay" and "be unlike" eventually being restricted to one of the two variants.

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of differ was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near differ

Cite this Entry

“Differ.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/differ. Accessed 31 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


dif·​fer ˈdif-ər How to pronounce differ (audio)
differed; differing ˈdif-(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce differ (audio)
: to be not the same : be unlike
brothers who differ in looks
: disagree sense 2
differ only on one issue

More from Merriam-Webster on differ

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!