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.

Examples of differ in a Sentence

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 That differs from the previous numbers provided that 68 individuals faced fines for violating a citywide curfew from Oct. 7-12. Bridget Fogarty, Journal Sentinel, 22 July 2024 The level of arsenic found in Compton’s tap water may differ wildly from that found in Glendale. Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times, 22 July 2024 One major area where Biden and Harris do differ is on trade policy, according to BTIG's Isaac Boltansky in a Monday research report. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, 22 July 2024 How does this last season differ from the previous ones? Wesley Stenzel, EW.com, 22 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for differ 

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 25 Jul. 2024.

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

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