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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But missing two months with COVID-19 ultimately didn’t make a difference to U.S. Ski Team officials. Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska’s David Norris is one of the country’s best skiers, but he didn’t make the cut for US Ski Team," 9 May 2021 The newer treatments with remdesivir, which was a drug that was not previously used much in the hospital, seem to also make a big difference. Special To The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "Laura Kuipers, Providence Portland: ‘It was hard not to have answers’," 8 May 2021 For example, as Congress considers whether and how to expand Social Security, adjusting the spousal benefit and providing caregiving credits in Social Security would make a substantial difference for women. Dan Doonan, Forbes, "For Mother’s Day, Forget The Flowers And Get Retirement Security For Moms," 7 May 2021 For people who have already been vaccinated, the filing and anticipated approval doesn’t make much difference. Alice Park, Time, "Pfizer-BioNTech Has Requested Full Approval of Their COVID-19 Vaccine From the FDA," 7 May 2021 Small, daily efforts can make a big difference in your journey out of complicated grief. Claire Gillespie, Health.com, "Complicated Grief: What It Is, How to Process It, and Why It's Different Than Typical Grieving," 7 May 2021 Little things like that make such a difference for your skin. Jessica Radloff, Glamour, "Jenna Ortega Says This SPF Mist Is a Game-Changer If You Always Forget Sunscreen," 5 May 2021 Adding millions more people to the vaccinated population will make a big difference in terms of building up population immunity, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Health, told CNN. Madeline Holcombe, CNN, "Covid vaccines need to be more accessible for workers who can't easily take time off, expert says. Or the US may face a winter surge," 5 May 2021 Getting a good night's sleep can make a big difference for those dealing with migraine. Nykia Spradley, Allure, "7 At-Home Solutions For Migraine Relief," 3 May 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.

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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

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Time Traveler for difference

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for difference

Last Updated

12 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Difference.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/difference. Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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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.

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