1 of 2


var·​i·​ant ˈver-ē-ənt How to pronounce variant (audio)
: manifesting variety, deviation, or disagreement
variant interpretations/opinions
: varying usually slightly from a usual or standard form
variant readings
variant spellings
variant forms of a disease
a variant bacterial strain
obsolete : variable


2 of 2


plural variants
: one of two or more persons or things of the same kind that differ in some way from one another: such as
: someone or something that exhibits variation from a type or norm
Scientists now find that a variant of a specific gene may contribute to the disorder …B. Bower
Ambient music, as it is sometimes called, was originally a variant of techno music without the beats.Neil Strauss
We played all kinds of weird and wacky poker variants, many involving wild cards …Anthony Holden
: one of two or more different spellings (such as labor and labour) or pronunciations (as of economics \ek-, ēk-\) of the same word
: one of two or more words (such as geographic and geographical) or word elements (such as mon- and mono-) of essentially the same meaning differing only in the presence or absence of an affix

Example Sentences

Adjective variant strains of a disease Noun A new variant of the disease has appeared.
Recent Examples on the Web
The rise in the new variant correlated with an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the United States over the last six weeks. Fox News, 13 Jan. 2023 If a new variant of concern were to materialize, a version of the virus that fundamentally eroded our immune systems’ ability to fend off SARS-2 requiring a rapid updating of Covid vaccines, the public would need to take note, Rasmussen said. Helen Branswell, STAT, 12 Jan. 2023 Infections from the new variant have swelled from barely 2 percent of U.S. cases at the start of December to more than 27 percent the first week of January, according to estimates by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Jacob Bogage, Washington Post, 9 Jan. 2023 At the same time, the emergence of a highly transmissible variant -- already on track to become the dominant strain in the U.S. -- is fanning concerns over new mutations. Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 9 Jan. 2023 In addition to a new small-lens module, Raspberry Pi also launched a new variant of its $50 High Quality Camera mounting system, which lets users attach high-quality standard lenses to the Pi. Kevin Purdy, Ars Technica, 9 Jan. 2023 And some new variant evolving from the Chinese outbreak could spoil 2023 for everyone else. David Axe, Rolling Stone, 8 Jan. 2023 Regardless, the new variant has moved quickly since making up just 2.3 percent of cases in early December. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 6 Jan. 2023 Experts warn the rise in hospitalizations may be attributed to a multitude of factors, including a new Omicron sub variant known as XBB.1.5 which is said to be the most transmissible strain to date, according to the World Health Organization. Youri Benadjaoud, ABC News, 6 Jan. 2023 See More

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

Word History



Middle English variaunt, borrowed from Anglo-French variant, borrowed from Latin variant-, varians "variegated, various," from present participle of variāre "to make changeable, vary"


noun derivative of variant entry 1

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1849, in the meaning defined at sense b

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

Dictionary Entries Near variant

Cite this Entry

“Variant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
: differing from others of its kind or class


2 of 2 noun
: an individual that shows variation from a type or norm
: one of two or more different spellings or pronunciations of the same word

Medical Definition


1 of 2 adjective
var·​i·​ant ˈver-ē-ənt, ˈvar- How to pronounce variant (audio)
: manifesting variety or deviation : exhibiting variation
variant forms of the disease


2 of 2 noun
: one that exhibits variation from a type, norm, or wild type : mutation
also : one whose behavior is at variance with the norms of society
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