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dif·​fer·​ence ˈdi-f(ə-)rən(t)s How to pronounce difference (audio)
: the quality or state of being dissimilar or different
the difference between right and wrong
: an instance of being unlike or distinct in nature, form, or quality
noted the differences in color and texture
archaic : a characteristic that distinguishes one from another or from the average
… an absolute gentleman, full of the most excellent differencesWilliam Shakespeare
: the element or factor that separates or distinguishes contrasting situations
Timing is often the difference between success and failure.
: distinction or discrimination in preference
: disagreement in opinion : dissension
: an instance or cause of disagreement
unable to settle their differences
mathematics : the degree or amount by which things differ in quantity or measure
specifically : remainder sense 2b(1)
: a significant change in or effect on a situation
it makes no difference to me


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differenced; differencing

transitive verb

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

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
Recent Examples on the Web
Separately, there is likely not much of an environmental difference among choosing different species of Christmas trees, Chastagner added. Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 1 Dec. 2023 The biggest difference for me now is that the action should be realistic. Brian Davids, The Hollywood Reporter, 1 Dec. 2023 What's the difference between knowledge sharing and stealing ideas? Lis Anderson, Forbes, 30 Nov. 2023 Standard setters have tried to minimize differences, but reconciling climate data into a comparable format is likely to remain a formidable task. Rochelle Toplensky, WSJ, 30 Nov. 2023 The prosthetic for the nose was like a silk curtain; that’s about the difference between my nose and his nose. David Remnick, The New Yorker, 30 Nov. 2023 All of the initial members are White and male, including Summers, who said in 2005 that innate differences between men and women may explain why fewer women advance in technological professions. Nitasha Tiku, Washington Post, 30 Nov. 2023 The base of the modern Rachel cut consists of many layers, and the differences in the lengths of the strands are particularly extreme around the face. Melanie Paukner, Glamour, 30 Nov. 2023 Legacy media institutions, including the L.A. Times with its 404 and De Los initiatives, have begun to tailor work toward these generational differences. Jonah Valdez, Los Angeles Times, 29 Nov. 2023
Special teams difference After a penalty-free first period, the Wings had a power play 6:58 into the second period. Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press, 6 Jan. 2023 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, 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, 5 Oct. 2017 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'difference.' 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, 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

First Known Use


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


15th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near difference

Cite this Entry

“Difference.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/difference. Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: the quality or state of being different
the striking difference in the sisters' looks
: the degree or amount by which things differ
especially : the number that is obtained by subtracting one number from another
the difference between 4 and 6 is 2
: a disagreement in opinion
persons unable to settle their differences
: an important change in or effect on a situation
made no difference to me

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