var·​i·​ance | \ˈver-ē-ən(t)s \

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

There’s huge variance in how the Four Seasons in Austin or Chicago, pretty weak. Eric Johnson, Recode, "Amazon’s HQ2 was a con, not a contest," 9 Nov. 2018 By definition, [personality disorders] represent maladaptive variance of normative personality functioning. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "What Mental Health Experts Want You to Know Before Watching the Buzzy New YouTube Series ‘The Mind of Jake Paul’," 12 Oct. 2018 In fact, nearly half of those films that came out within five months of one another had an opening-weekend variance of no more than 11 percent. Steven Zeitchik,, "How 'Black Panther' is partly responsible for the success of 'Avengers: Infinity War'," 2 May 2018 In approving the final plans for the building, the commission agreed to a variance of 103 parking spaces in the lot, which will be shared by the two existing buildings and the new one. Jeff Piorkowski/special To,, "Beachwood Planning Commission approves new building; sets special meeting for schools' plan," 27 Apr. 2018 Seriously — a variance of less than 2 percentage points, which is pretty much how test score curves play out on standard tests. Lauren Ritchie,, "'High impact' teacher definition blurred by Department of Education mumbo jumbo," 23 Mar. 2018 The arts center property is zoned R3 high density residential, according to Mumby, who said some of the structures planned will require the center’s leaders to obtain zoning variances through the board of appeals process. David Anderson, The Aegis, "Harford to end ownership of arts center site," 15 June 2018 The board also approved a special use permit and zoning variances to allow for the building, which is to have 119 independent living units, 66 licensed assisted living units and 15 memory care units. Chuck Fieldman,, "200-unit senior housing development coming to Oak Brook as village settles lawsuit with developer," 14 June 2018 The publication reports that the facility is state-licensed to hold 1,200 migrant youth, but was recently granted a variance from state officials to house an additional 297. Jewel Wicker, Teen Vogue, "Journalists Visited a Texas Detention Center That Houses Immigrant Children, Here’s What They Found," 14 June 2018

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

Statistics for variance

Last Updated

2 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for variance

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

See more words from the same century

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



English Language Learners Definition of variance

: 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 \

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).


amusing and light sparring with words

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Bee Cubed

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!