var·​i·​ance ˈver-ē-ən(t)s How to pronounce variance (audio)
: the fact, quality, or state of being variable or variant : difference, variation
yearly variance in crops
: the fact or state of being in disagreement : dissension, dispute
: a disagreement between two parts of the same legal proceeding that must be consonant
: a license to do some act contrary to the usual rule
a zoning variance
: the square of the standard deviation
at variance
: not in harmony or agreement
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.
Recent Examples on the Web To account for variances, work with all your privacy stakeholders to identify appropriate (and realistic) goals. Jodi Daniels, Forbes, 20 Feb. 2024 The wide variances create a cross-country picture that is at once mixed and nuanced. Ali Martin, The Christian Science Monitor, 13 Feb. 2024 Planning staff recommended denying the appeal and granting the variances. Stacy Ryburn,, 19 Jan. 2024 More than a third of the variance in SAT scores can now be predicted by factors known at students’ birth, up from a quarter of the variance in 1994. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 11 Jan. 2024 And although a few companies– like Fenty Beauty and MAC– have diversified their product ranges to include POC, most brands still do not represent the variances in Latinx skin and hair. India Espy-Jones, Essence, 12 Oct. 2023 The variances had to deal with building and site design to fit the gas station on the 1.3-acre property. Stacy Ryburn,, 19 Jan. 2024 The data then are weighted using demographic information from the U.S. Census and NHIS to adjust for variance from population values. ABC News, 9 Jan. 2024 To build the project as planned, the developer needed and got commission approval on two variances. Susannah Bryan, Sun Sentinel, 5 Jan. 2024 See More

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near variance

Cite this Entry

“Variance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: the quality or state of being variable or variant : difference
yearly variance in growth
: the fact or state of being in disagreement : dispute
: the square of the standard deviation

Legal Definition


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

More from Merriam-Webster on variance

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