noun var·i·a·tion \ ˌver-ē-ˈā-shən \
|Updated on: 5 Jul 2018

Definition of variation

1 a : 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
2 : declination 6
3 a : 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
5 a : 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
6 a : a solo dance in classic ballet
b : a repetition in modern ballet of a movement sequence with changes


play \ˌver-ē-ˈā-shnəl, -shə-nᵊl\ adjective



Examples of variation in a Sentence

  1. the movie begins with a somewhat irreverent variation on the Nativity story

  2. the latest in a long line of variations in her hair color

Recent Examples of variation from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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

VARIATION Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of variation for English Language Learners

  • : 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

VARIATION Defined for Kids


noun var·i·a·tion \ ˌver-ē-ˈā-shən \

Definition of variation for Students

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.

Medical Dictionary


noun var·i·a·tion \ ˌver-ē-ˈā-shən, ˌvar- \

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


play \-shnəl, -shən-ᵊl\ adjective

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