dif·​fer·​en·​tial | \ ˌdi-fə-ˈren(t)-shəl How to pronounce differential (audio) \

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

Other Words from differential


differentially \ ˌdi-​fə-​ˈren(t)-​shə-​lē How to pronounce differential (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for differential

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of differential in a Sentence

Adjective did away with differential pay scales for men and women doing the same work
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The Supreme Court has upheld the differential treatment of residents of Puerto Rico, ruling that Congress was within its power to exclude them from a benefits program that's available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Mark Sherman, ajc, 21 Apr. 2022 The Supreme Court has upheld the differential treatment of residents of Puerto Rico, ruling that Congress was within its power to exclude them from a benefits program that’s available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Mark Sherman, Chicago Tribune, 21 Apr. 2022 Dissenting, Justice Sonia Sotomayor called out the differential treatment as irrational. Mark Sherman, USA TODAY, 21 Apr. 2022 First, vague laws can easily lead to differential treatment, exacerbating discrimination and giving immense power to probation officers and prosecutors who may not understand technology. Sarah Lageson, Wired, 23 Feb. 2022 At issue is a mathematical concept called differential privacy that the bureau is using for the first time to mask data in the 2020 census. New York Times, 21 Apr. 2022 What might take a human computer 20 hours with a desktop calculator could be cut down to 15 minutes with the differential analyzer. Katie Hafner, Scientific American, 7 Apr. 2022 Beyond the three suspension adjustments, there are also three for steering, engine response, rev matching, and stability control, plus two differential settings. Tony Quiroga, Car and Driver, 21 Mar. 2022 But using 2010 results processed with the differential privacy algorithm, the population increased by 203%. Paulina Pineda, The Arizona Republic, 11 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Under new coach Steve Cherundolo, LAFC (7-1-1) leads the Supporters’ Shield standings with 22 points and is second in the league in goals (21) and goal differential (+13) after Sunday’s 2-0 win over Minnesota United. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, 3 May 2022 The settings for the adaptive suspension, traction control, and rear differential—all under the management of the Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrata (LDVI) dynamic brain—have been recalibrated. Mike Duff, Car and Driver, 12 Apr. 2022 There are all-new control algorithms for the computers that coordinate the engine mapping and that differential, plus the suspension damping and the traction and stability control systems. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, 28 Feb. 2022 Based on a formula developed by The Ringer that takes into account point differential, injuries and schedules, three most likely playoff scenarios have come into focus for Erik Spoelstra’s team. Ira Winderman, sun-sentinel.com, 25 Feb. 2022 Importantly and essentially, the vehicle retains its original matching-numbers chassis, engine, body, gearbox differential, hood frame and hardtop, requisite characteristics for the best examples. Robert Ross, Robb Report, 21 Feb. 2022 The Stars are the only team in the playoffs with a negative goal differential. Jace Evans, USA TODAY, 2 May 2022 Dating back to the regular season, the Bulls are 0-6 at home in April with a minus-132 point differential. Jason Patt, Forbes, 25 Apr. 2022 Entering play on Sunday, Chicago ranked second in the American League with a +12 run differential, trailing only Cleveland (+18). Joe Noga, cleveland, 18 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for differential

Time Traveler

The first known use of differential was in 1615

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Dictionary Entries Near differential



differential analyzer

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Statistics for differential

Last Updated

10 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Differential.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/differential. Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for differential


dif·​fer·​en·​tial | \ ˌdif-ə-ˈren-chəl How to pronounce differential (audio) \

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 How to pronounce differential (audio) \ adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on differential

Nglish: Translation of differential for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of differential for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about differential


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