dis·​par·​i·​ty di-ˈsper-ə-tē How to pronounce disparity (audio)
plural disparities
: a noticeable and usually significant difference or dissimilarity
economic/income disparities
The fact is that America's colleges … have lately been exacerbating more than ameliorating the widening disparity of wealth and opportunity in American society.Andrew Delbanco
… in no other composer is the disparity between the man and his work so immense. Bach's life is considered stupefyingly ordinary, but his music is divine …Edward Rothstein

Did you know?

Disparity contains the Latin dis, meaning "apart" or "non-", so a disparity is a kind of "nonequality". The word is often used to describe a social or economic condition that's considered unfairly unequal: a racial disparity in hiring, a health disparity between the rich and the poor, an income disparity between men and women, and so on. Its adjective, disparate (accented on the first syllable), is often used to emphasize strong differences.

Examples of disparity in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Jada Pinkett Smith applauded Taraji P. Henson for speaking out about her experience with the pay disparity in Hollywood while appearing on NPR’s It’s Been a Minute. Tatiana Tenreyro, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 Feb. 2024 There are very limited efforts in Congress to justify or address Medicare funding disparities facing Puerto Rico. Mariela Torres Cintrón, STAT, 21 Feb. 2024 This challenge is acutely amplified among minority groups, which often face additional systemic barriers and disparities in income and wealth that further exacerbate their struggle toward achieving homeownership. USA TODAY, 20 Feb. 2024 My past experiences have illuminated the vital importance of intervening early to address societal disparities and heal fractured communities. Stephanie Tharpe, Forbes, 20 Feb. 2024 Because branches in wealthy areas typically get far more in private donations than branches in low-income areas, the matching program widened already large disparities in funding for activities, programming and equipment. David Garrick, San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 Feb. 2024 Taiwan also has one of the most economically equitable societies anywhere, with a relatively low disparity in income distribution despite having among the highest median incomes. Andrew S. Erickson, Foreign Affairs, 16 Feb. 2024 This is vital for rectifying historical injustices, promoting fairness, and addressing economic disparities. Eleanor Dearman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 15 Feb. 2024 These lawsuits and efforts are an attempt to chill efforts to bridge historic structural disparities in representation. Alphonso David, Essence, 8 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'disparity.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Middle French & Late Latin; Middle French disparité, borrowed from Late Latin disparitāt-, disparitās, from Latin dispar-, dispār "unequal, different" (from dis- dis- + par-, pār "matching, equal," of uncertain origin) + -itāt-, -itās -ity

First Known Use

1571, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of disparity was in 1571

Dictionary Entries Near disparity

Cite this Entry

“Disparity.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disparity. Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Medical Definition


dis·​par·​i·​ty dis-ˈpar-ət-ē How to pronounce disparity (audio)
plural disparities
: the state of being different or dissimilar (as in the sensory information received) see retinal disparity

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