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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
Similarly, 2024’s first-quarter comparison to the same time a year ago, when the appetite for demand looked different, is the reason for a stark difference. Prarthana Prakash, Fortune Europe, 17 Apr. 2024 The vote was close: 51% to 49%, a difference of 87 people. Diana Goetsch, Los Angeles Times, 17 Apr. 2024 The difference between the range of missiles was even starker: 280 kilometers, or about 174 miles, (the Ukrainian position) and a mere 40 kilometers, or about 25 miles, (the Russian position). Samuel Charap, Foreign Affairs, 16 Apr. 2024 Another key difference is that Mr. Trump also required some asylum- seekers to remain in Mexico instead of the U.S. while their cases were pending, a policy that the Biden administration ended in 2022. Caitlin Babcock, The Christian Science Monitor, 16 Apr. 2024 Hispanic youth were detained at a significantly higher rate than white youth in 2015 and 2016 but showed no difference in 2017-2019. Kamal Morgan, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 16 Apr. 2024 Despite a slight difference in spelling, Brotman shares the same name with the classic character Ariel. Glae Thien, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Apr. 2024 Learn More How Type 2 Diabetes Is Treated What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes? Elizabeth Woolley, Verywell Health, 15 Apr. 2024 What the series share is a tone that splits the difference between prestige costume drama, high melodrama, and fairy tale (the Elizabeths come from a family that practices magic). Judy Berman, TIME, 5 Apr. 2024
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

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 22 Apr. 2024.

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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