dif·fer·en·tial | \ˌdi-fə-ˈren(t)-shəl \

Definition of differential 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of, relating to, or constituting a difference : distinguishing differential characteristics

b : making a distinction between individuals or classes differential tax rates

c : based on or resulting from a differential

d : functioning or proceeding differently or at a different rate differential melting

2 mathematics : being, relating to, or involving a differential (see differential entry 2 sense 1) or differentiation

3 physics

a : relating to quantitative differences (as of motion or pressure)

b : producing effects by reason of quantitative differences



Definition of differential (Entry 2 of 2)

1 mathematics

a : the product (see product sense 1) of the derivative of a function of one variable by the increment of the independent variable

b : a sum of products in which each product consists of a partial derivative of a given function of several variables multiplied by the corresponding increment and which contains as many products as there are independent variables in the function

2 : a difference between comparable individuals or classes a price differential also : the amount of such a difference

3a : a drivetrain gear assembly connecting two collinear shafts or axles (such as those of the rear wheels of an automobile) and permitting one shaft to revolve faster than the other a locking rear differential

b : a case covering such an assembly

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Other Words from differential


differentially \-ˈren(t)-shə-lē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for differential

Synonyms: Adjective

discriminating, discriminative, discriminatory

Antonyms: Adjective


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Examples of differential in a Sentence


did away with differential pay scales for men and women doing the same work

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

It’s based on a technique called differential privacy, designed to protect individuals’ identity even when data allegedly has been anonymized. Tom Simonite, WIRED, "How a Startup Is Using the Blockchain to Protect Your Privacy," 11 July 2018 Even if Denmark were to lose, Australia would need to win and make up a goal-differential edge of three in order to unseat Christian Eriksen & Co. for second place. Charlotte Carroll, SI.com, "How to Watch Denmark vs. France: World Cup Live Stream, TV Channel," 26 June 2018 That's very differential than the attacks on Melania Trump reading a book to kids, English is her fifth language. Fox News, "Gorka: Instead of learning from 2016, the press doubled down," 6 Apr. 2018 With regard to the testing for discrimination against persons with disabilities, three of the 20 tests, or 15 percent, showed differential treatment against the person and his or her need of a reasonable accommodation. Dwight Adams, Indianapolis Star, "'Significant' housing discrimination found in Marion County, study says," 5 Apr. 2018 Suddenly, both Dre and Bow are confronted with their own double standards about the differential treatment of their son and daughter. refinery29.com, "Black-ish Went To The Sunken Place Last Night For A Different Reason," 14 Mar. 2018 Consumers intuitively understand differential pricing. John Rennie Short, Smithsonian, "Should U.S. Cities Use Congestion Pricing To Ease Traffic?," 8 Feb. 2018 The priorities most frequently mentioned were higher pay for officers to help the city solve a recruiting and retention crisis, and a commitment to addressing differential treatment of minorities by police identified in a San Diego State survey. David Garrick, sandiegouniontribune.com, "San Diegans want new police chief to focus on pay, racial profiling, transparency," 14 Oct. 2017 In reality, trade deficits with other countries reflect a mix of relative growth rates, differential production advantages, supply chains, savings and investment, and currency exchange rates. Robert B. Zoellick, WSJ, "Trump’s Looming Trade Crack-Up," 5 Sep. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Brazil currently leads Group E on goal differential, with Switzerland also having accured four points. Julia Poe, SI.com, "How to Watch Serbia vs Brazil: World Cup Live Stream, TV Channel," 27 June 2018 Its core purpose is to limit the extreme and dangerous thermal differential between being indoors and being outdoors in a polar climate zone. Joseph O’neill, The New Yorker, "The First World," 21 June 2018 Chen came into the game with by far the majors’ biggest differential between ERA at home (1.06) and on the road (an abysmal 10.31) at 9.25. Craig Davis, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Homers by Anderson, Realmuto lead Marlins past Giants," 12 June 2018 And that, given the power dynamic differential between the two, the burden to try to make some amends for that fact falls to Clinton. Chris Cillizza, CNN, "Bill Clinton still gets it wrong on Monica Lewinsky and #MeToo," 4 June 2018 Race conditions should mitigate the speed differential between manufacturers that was seen in qualifying. Dave Kallmann, USA TODAY, "Indianapolis 500: Drivers to watch at the 'Greatest Spectacle in Racing'," 25 May 2018 Stronger brakes, limited-slip front differential and adaptive dampers make the front-drive hatch more tossable. Robert Duffer, chicagotribune.com, "Car review: Volkswagen finally gives Golf GTI the tech it deserves," 5 June 2018 Last season was the worst in Galaxy history, one that saw the team finish at the bottom of the standings for the first time while setting franchise records for losses, goals allowed, largest goal differential and fewest points. Kevin Baxter, latimes.com, "Galaxy's loss to FC Dallas is proving they are worse than last season," 31 May 2018 This hefty two-volume work is a treatment of differential and integral calculus. Evelyn Lamb, Smithsonian, "The 18th-Century Lady Mathematician Who Loved Calculus and God," 16 May 2018

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


1615, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1871, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for differential


borrowed from Medieval Latin differentiālis, from Latin differentia difference entry 1 + -ālis -al entry 1


noun derivative of differential entry 1

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Last Updated

26 Aug 2018

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Time Traveler for differential

The first known use of differential was in 1615

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More Definitions for differential



English Language Learners Definition of differential

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: relating to or based on a difference : treating some people or groups differently from others



English Language Learners Definition of differential (Entry 2 of 2)

: a difference between people or things

: a gear or an arrangement of gears in a vehicle that allows one wheel to turn faster than another when the vehicle is going around a curve


dif·fer·en·tial | \ˌdif-ə-ˈren-chəl \

Medical Definition of differential 

1 : of, relating to, or constituting a difference differential birth rates in different economic levels

2 : making a distinction between individuals or classes differential cell counts differential staining

Other Words from differential

differentially \-ˈrench-(ə-)lē \ adverb

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Comments on differential

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


not any or not one

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