difference

noun
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

difference

verb
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

Carney, for one, has noticed a difference since the band last toured. Washington Post, "Rested and revived, The Black Keys return after 5-year break," 9 Sep. 2019 The program is open to anyone age 15 and above who wants to make a difference. courant.com, "Community News For The Farmington Valley Edition," 9 Sep. 2019 And given the vanishingly narrow margin between Jimmy Carter and Ford — Carter won 50 percent to Ford’s 48 percent — the pardon may have made the difference. Jay Cost, National Review, "In Praise of Gerald Ford," 9 Sep. 2019 Arab politicians grumble that these projects are happening too slowly, but admit that the money is making a difference. The Economist, "Israel’s Arab citizens could hold the key to political change," 5 Sep. 2019 There are two menus of arepas; the difference, my server told me, comes from the fillings. Allyson Reedy, The Know, "Restaurant Review: Los Parceros, the tiny East Colfax Colombian restaurant with a big arepa menu," 5 Sep. 2019 Many observers today ask if that MeToo wave—the likes of former union minister MJ Akbar and a founder of comedy collective All India Bakchod (AIB) were among those allegedly exposed—made a difference at all. Sangeeta Tanwar, Quartz India, "A year on, #MeToo has lost momentum in India but we must keep the conversation going," 4 Sep. 2019 But how can remote actors like the EU make a difference, especially when regional players seem uninterested? The Christian Science Monitor, "Mountain climbing with Spirit," 30 Aug. 2019 Blessed to have met your family and made a difference. Fox News, "United Airlines crew, passengers befriend Texas boy with autism who wouldn't sit in seat," 29 Aug. 2019

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

Noun

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

Verb

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for difference

Noun

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).

Verb

derivative of difference entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about difference

Statistics for difference

Last Updated

13 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for difference

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for difference

difference

noun

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

difference

noun
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).

WORD OF THE DAY

authorized for issue (as a bond)

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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