var·​i·​a·​tion | \ ˌver-ē-ˈā-shən How to pronounce variation (audio) \

Definition of variation

1a : the act or process of varying : the state or fact of being varied
b : an instance of varying
c : the extent to which or the range in which a thing varies
3a : a change of algebraic sign between successive terms of a sequence
b : a measure of the change in data, a variable, or a function
4 : the repetition of a musical theme with modifications in such elements as rhythm, melody, harmony, key, tempo, and accompaniment
5a : divergence in the structural or functional characteristics of an organism from the species or population norm or average
b : something (such as an individual or group) that exhibits variation
6a : a solo dance in classic ballet
b : a repetition in modern ballet of a movement sequence with changes

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Other Words from variation

variational \ ˌver-​ē-​ˈā-​shnəl How to pronounce variation (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective
variationally adverb

Synonyms for variation


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Examples of variation in a Sentence

the movie begins with a somewhat irreverent variation on the Nativity story the latest in a long line of variations in her hair color
Recent Examples on the Web But underneath this nearly thirty percentage point gap in attitudes between Black and white respondents, this masks considerable variation even among Black respondents. Shom Mazumder, The New Republic, "What Black People Really Think About the Police," 15 Dec. 2020 Usually $329, this 32 gigabyte (GB) variation is discounted by $30 to $299 in space gray and gold, while the 128GB version has fallen to $395 in space gray, which is $34 off its original list price of $429. Isabelle Kagan, USA TODAY, "The 5 best Amazon deals you can get this weekend," 5 Dec. 2020 Studies show that domestic violence calls to police and shelters in the U.S. have risen between 6% and 21% (variation depending on data source) since the start of the pandemic, with the largest increase happening the first five weeks of quarantine. H. Colleen Sinclair, The Conversation, "Intimate partner violence has increased during pandemic, emerging evidence suggests," 4 Dec. 2020 All the while, the 26-year-old has kept his style in about the same variation of an undercut — only briefly verging away from it to test out the mullet trend. Devon Abelman, Allure, "K-Pop Star Kai Surprised Fans With Neon Green Hair in New Music Video Teaser," 19 Nov. 2020 In the novel, everybody’s Jewish, so all of these people have been re-ethnicized, and that is, of course, another variation of the story. Thomas Floyd, Washington Post, "Who’s the killer in ‘The Undoing’? The novelist behind the series wonders, too.," 13 Nov. 2020 Computer scientists still have much work to do before the protocol (or some variation on it) can be used in real-world applications. Quanta Magazine, "Computer Scientists Achieve ‘Crown Jewel’ of Cryptography," 10 Nov. 2020 Similarly, there is some variation in what states call a ballot sent by mail: mail-in, absentee, absentee voter ballot, or a mail ballot. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, "Why do so many Americans not know how to vote?," 28 Oct. 2020 Dynasty had its own classy variation, whereby a panel containing the actor overlaid a background scene. Laurence Scott, Wired, "How We Came to Live in a Split-Screen Reality," 11 Oct. 2020

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

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First Known Use of variation

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for variation

Middle English variacioun, borrowed from Anglo-French variacion "variance, discrepancy," borrowed from Latin variātiōn-, variātiō "diversification, divergence," from variāre "to make changeable, vary" + -tiōn- -tiō, suffix of deverbal nouns

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Time Traveler for variation

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

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Last Updated

14 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Variation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for variation


How to pronounce variation (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of variation

: a change in the form, position, condition, or amount of something
: something that is similar to something else but different in some way
music : a repeated version of a short piece of music with changes in its rhythm, tune, or harmony


var·​i·​a·​tion | \ ˌver-ē-ˈā-shən How to pronounce variation (audio) \

Kids Definition of variation

1 : a change in form, position, or condition Our routine could use some variation.
2 : amount of change or difference Scientists record the variations in temperature.
3 : departure from what is usual to a group The poodle's offspring show no variation from the breed.


var·​i·​a·​tion | \ ˌver-ē-ˈā-shən, ˌvar- How to pronounce variation (audio) \

Medical Definition of variation

1 : divergence in one or more characteristics of an organism or biotype from those typical of or usual for its group
2 : something (as an individual or group) that exhibits variation

Other Words from variation

variational \ -​shnəl, -​shən-​ᵊl How to pronounce variation (audio) \ adjective

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