dif·​fer | \ˈdi-fər \
differed; differing\-​f(ə-​)riŋ \

Definition of differ 

intransitive verb

1a : to be unlike or distinct in nature, form, or characteristics the law of one state differs from that of another

b : to change from time to time or from one instance to another : vary the number of cookies in a box may differ

2 : to be of unlike or opposite opinion : disagree they differ on religious matters I beg to differ with your interpretation.

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for differ


contrast, vary


compare, match

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

Each El Niño differs in intensity and duration, so no two El Niño events are the same. Megan Barber, Curbed, "El Niño watch: Here’s what it means for cities," 19 Sep. 2018 Meanwhile, discussions on social media and Goodreads have helped us refine our understanding of the responsibilities an author takes on when writing characters whose backgrounds and experiences differ from their own. Nicole Dieker, Longreads, "How the Self-Publishing Industry Changed, Between My First and Second Novels," 23 June 2018 These isotopes differ in the number of neutrons in the oxygen atom and, according to MacLeod, behave slightly differently from one another. Tereza Pultarova, Space.com, "Dino-Killing Asteroid Impact Warmed Earth's Climate for 100,000 Years," 24 May 2018 Background aside, Wilson and Kopser differ in several ways. Jasper Scherer, San Antonio Express-News, "Distinct backgrounds shape Democratic runoff between Kopser, Wilson for District 21," 4 May 2018 Hightower and Battle also differed on immigration policy. Carol Robinson, AL.com, "3 injured by falling limb at Birmingham Zoo," 19 Apr. 2018 The two differed on whether climate change is human-caused. Becky Bohrer, The Seattle Times, "US Rep Young in debate likens migrant caravan to invasion," 26 Oct. 2018 Of course, as with every week, there were differing opinions on the results. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Shin Lim Is Who Won 'America's Got Talent' 2018 and People Have A Lot of Opinions," 20 Sep. 2018 Seltzer and sparkling water differ slightly based on where the carbonation originates from, Dr. Mark Zeidel, chair of the department of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, explained in a statement. Kristen Fischer, Fox News, "Is seltzer good for you?," 9 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'differ.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of differ

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

History and Etymology for differ

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.

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about differ

Statistics for differ

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for differ

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for differ



English Language Learners Definition of differ

: to be different

: to have opinions that don't agree


dif·​fer | \ˈdi-fər \
differed; differing

Kids Definition of differ

1 : to be unlike : be different “And so, as we differ from all ordinary people, let us become friends.”— L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz

2 : disagree sense 1 We differ on how best to proceed.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on differ

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for differ

Spanish Central: Translation of differ

Nglish: Translation of differ for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of differ for Arabic Speakers

Comments on differ

What made you want to look up differ? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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