var·​i·​ance | \ ˈver-ē-ən(t)s How to pronounce variance (audio) \

Definition of variance

1 : the fact, quality, or state of being variable or variant : difference, variation yearly variance in crops
2 : the fact or state of being in disagreement : dissension, dispute
3 : a disagreement between two parts of the same legal proceeding that must be consonant
4 : a license to do some act contrary to the usual rule a zoning variance
5 : the square of the standard deviation
at variance
: not in harmony or agreement

Keep scrolling for more

Choose the Right Synonym for variance

discord, strife, conflict, contention, dissension, variance mean a state or condition marked by a lack of agreement or harmony. discord implies an intrinsic or essential lack of harmony producing quarreling, factiousness, or antagonism. a political party long racked by discord strife emphasizes a struggle for superiority rather than the incongruity or incompatibility of the persons or things involved. during his brief reign the empire was never free of civil strife conflict usually stresses the action of forces in opposition but in static applications implies an irreconcilability as of duties or desires. the conflict of freedom and responsibility contention applies to strife or competition that shows itself in quarreling, disputing, or controversy. several points of contention about the new zoning law dissension implies strife or discord and stresses a division into factions. religious dissension threatened to split the colony variance implies a clash between persons or things owing to a difference in nature, opinion, or interest. cultural variances that work against a national identity

Examples of variance in a Sentence

There was some variance in the results. We noticed a slight variance between the quality of the samples. He had to get a variance to add a garage on to his house.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Small sample sizes lead to greater variance of results, which is why the Drake equation reliably produces such wildly different estimates of the prevalence of extraterrestrial intelligence. Daniel Oberhaus, Wired, "The Trouble With Counting Aliens," 18 June 2020 Board members voted 5-0 to deny a variance that would have permitted Simon to raise four to five hens in a chicken coop on his 10,500-square-foot lot. Beth Mlady, cleveland, "Middleburg Heights zoning board denies resident’s request to raise chickens in back yard," 18 June 2020 Alameda is one of a handful of counties that has not received variance to advance further. Matt Kawahara,, "Outdoor dining, indoor retail, churches can reopen in Alameda County starting Friday," 18 June 2020 Public health officials say that Africa, a continent of 54 countries and more than a billion people, will see that wide degree of variance. David Mckenzie, CNN, "African countries are still waiting for a surge in Covid-19 cases. Some public health experts question whether it will happen," 16 June 2020 At the college level, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said his conference will require student-athletes to undergo testing upon returning to campuses, though there’s variance across schools from other conferences. Ethan Sears, The Indianapolis Star, "How states around the country are planning a return for high school sports," 11 June 2020 Missouri remains the only state that supplements such reimbursements to limit the variance between the patient’s home state Medicaid rate and Missouri’s. Glenn Minnis, Washington Examiner, "Children’s hospitals could lose $140M in Medicaid funding," 8 June 2020 The muzzleloader industry standard of muzzle velocity variance is 75 fps, according to Federal. Alex Robinson, Outdoor Life, "Federal’s FireStick Will Be a Game Changer in the Muzzleloader Hunting World," 2 June 2020 McGovern’s inconsistent footwork in pass protection often leads to variance in McGovern’s movement efficiency. John Owning, Dallas News, "Film room: 3 Cowboys in danger of losing their starting jobs, including an inconsistent nose tackle," 1 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'variance.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of variance

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for variance

Middle English variaunce "change, variety, discrepancy," borrowed from Anglo-French variance, borrowed from Latin variantia, "diversity, variety," from variant-, varians variant entry 1 + -ia -ia entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about variance

Time Traveler for variance

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for variance

Last Updated

26 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Variance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for variance



Financial Definition of variance

What It Is

Variance is a statistical measure of how much a set of observations differ from each other.

In accounting and financial analysis, variance also refers to how much an actual expense deviates from the budgeted or forecast amount.

How It Works

For example, let's say Company XYZ stock has the following prices:

The average of these prices is $21.33. To calculate the variance, we see how "far away" each day's stock price is from $21, like this:

Notice that some of the differences are negative. Because we're going to calculate the average difference, the negative numbers create a mathematical problem (they'll offset the positive numbers and screw up the calculation). To avoid this, we square each difference so that each difference is positive, like this:

The last step is simply calculating the average of those squared differences, which is $9.42, and then taking the square root of that number to get the amount by which Company XYZ stock tends to vary from its average price.

The square root is $3.07, meaning that when Company XYZ deviates from that $21 average, it tends to do so by about $3.07.

Why It Matters

Variance is a measure of volatility because it measures how much a stock tends to deviate from its mean. The higher the variance, the more wildly the stock fluctuates. Accordingly, the higher the variance, the riskier the stock.

Source: Investing Answers


How to pronounce variance (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of variance

formal : an amount of difference or change
law : an official decision or document that allows someone to do something that is not usually allowed by the rules


var·​i·​ance | \ ˈver-ē-əns How to pronounce variance (audio) \

Legal Definition of variance

1 : a disagreement between two documents or positions especially : a disagreement between allegations (as in an indictment or complaint) and proof offered at trial that warrants an appropriate remedy (as a directed verdict or an acquittal) when prejudicial to the substantial rights of the defendant
2 : an authorization to do something contrary to the usual restriction a variance granted by a state agency especially : permission for a use of real property that is prohibited by a zoning ordinance — see also unnecessary hardship — compare spot zoning

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on variance

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A More Exception(al) Quiz

  • hot dog  hot dog  hot dog  hot dog cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!