dif·​fer·​ence | \ ˈdi-f(ə-)rən(t)s How to pronounce difference (audio) , ˈdi-fərn(t)s \

Definition of difference

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : the quality or state of being dissimilar or different the difference between right and wrong
b : an instance of being unlike or distinct in nature, form, or quality noted the differences in color and texture
c archaic : a characteristic that distinguishes one from another or from the average … an absolute gentleman, full of the most excellent differences— William Shakespeare
d : the element or factor that separates or distinguishes contrasting situations Timing is often the difference between success and failure.
2 : distinction or discrimination in preference
3a : disagreement in opinion : dissension
b : an instance or cause of disagreement unable to settle their differences
4 mathematics : the degree or amount by which things differ in quantity or measure specifically : remainder sense 2b(1)
5 : a significant change in or effect on a situation it makes no difference to me


differenced; differencing

Definition of difference (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: differentiate, distinguish … every individual has something that differences it from another …— John Locke

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of difference in a Sentence

Noun She knows the difference between right and wrong. There's no difference between the two houses. They look exactly the same. There's a big difference in price. Verb people who cannot difference God's will from their own selfish desires and prejudices
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun What is the difference between a Real ID and a regular license? Melissa Yeager, The Arizona Republic, "Real ID deadline extended again due to COVID-19. Here's what that means for Arizonans," 27 Apr. 2021 The only difference to consumers will be the cost of those drugs. Robert Davis, Washington Examiner, "Colorado prescription drug importation bill signed into law," 27 Apr. 2021 The difference is clear between a video appointment with a primary care physician familiar with the patient’s medical record and a five-minute audio-only visit with an ad hoc provider. BostonGlobe.com, "COVID-19 brought health care into the 21st century. Here’s what we need from telehealth next," 26 Apr. 2021 The difference now is that society has become so polarized and almost every question has become political, Kettl said. Talia Richman, Dallas News, "Mailers, money and a church’s politics: How some North Texas school board races are ‘drawn into the vortex of the culture wars’," 26 Apr. 2021 What is the difference between Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from central bank–issued digital currencies? Eben Shapiro, Time, "PayPal CEO Dan Schulman: Cryptocurrency Is the Real Deal. And the Superapps Are Coming.," 25 Apr. 2021 The difference is most stark comparing the south to the east in terms of people age 65 and older who have been vaccinated. Paul Sisson, San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego County sees vaccination progress in South Bay, but east lags," 25 Apr. 2021 The biggest difference in the game was the 3-point shooting: the Pacers were 11-of-33 while the Magic were just 6-of-24. Roy Parry, orlandosentinel.com, "Magic coach Steve Clifford out tonight against Pacers, could miss multiple games due to COVID-19," 25 Apr. 2021 The difference in the amount of plastic pollution was alarming. Julia Zaltzman, Robb Report, "Boat of the Week: This 185-Foot Sea-Cleaning Sailboat Collects up to 3 Tons of Ocean Garbage per Hour," 23 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb But that’s largely attributed to the singular genius of coach Bill Belichick, who is famous for his ability to adapt his game plan and players to difference situations each week. Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Lions GM, coach should stop playing games and answer questions," 2 Mar. 2018 For the days closest to the equinox, the Harvest Moon rise occurs between 30 and 35 minutes difference each day, as opposed to the normal 50 minutes through most of the rest of the year. Richard Tribou, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Rare October Harvest Moon rises tonight," 5 Oct. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'difference.' 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 difference


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for difference


Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin differentia "distinction, distinguishing characteristic," from different-, differens, present participle of differre "to carry in varying directions, delay, differ" + -ia -ia entry 1

Note: Latin differentia was used by Cicero and others as an equivalent of Greek diaphorá, a nominal derivative of diaphérein (see note at differ).


derivative of difference entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about difference

Time Traveler for difference

Time Traveler

The first known use of difference was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for difference

Last Updated

30 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Difference.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/difference. Accessed 10 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for difference



English Language Learners Definition of difference

: the quality that makes one person or thing unlike another
: something that people do not agree about : a disagreement in opinion
: the degree or amount by which things differ


dif·​fer·​ence | \ ˈdi-fə-rens How to pronounce difference (audio) , ˈdi-frəns \

Kids Definition of difference

1 : what makes two or more persons or things not the same I can't see any difference between the two designs.
2 : a disagreement about something They've always had their differences.
3 : the number that is left after subtracting one number from another The difference between six and four is two.
4 : an important change A tutor has made a difference in his grades.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on difference

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu jedi training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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