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

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 The cohesive variation on Squeeze is a testament to Ashworth’s talent as a composer and songwriter. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 14 Jan. 2022 Similar studies in other countries found less substantial declines; the variation could be due to the specific vaccines studied, how long ago people were vaccinated or other variables. Erin Allday, San Francisco Chronicle, 11 Dec. 2021 One variation of this workout is to shorten the length of each uphill rep (e.g. start with 15 seconds, work your way up to a minute). Mario Fraioli, Outside Online, 24 Sep. 2021 The variation depends on many factors, such as vegetation and snow cover - snow insulates the ground from the changes in air temperature - as well as the type and thickness of organic layer on the surface. Joshua Partlow, Anchorage Daily News, 12 Jan. 2022 Theoretically, this would ensure that the forest will endure, because that variation has already adapted to warmer temperatures. Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 11 Jan. 2022 His first experience with the Juicy Lucy was memorable, but not in a good way — and that’s what informed his variation. Louisa Chu,, 10 Jan. 2022 Try it with bacon, a variation popular in Shanghai. Bill Addison, Los Angeles Times, 8 Jan. 2022 Each one’s a distinctive variation on the theme, but there is a global mantra: low and slow. Beth Segal, cleveland, 7 Jan. 2022

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

26 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Variation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jan. 2022.

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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
: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on variation

Nglish: Translation of variation for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of variation for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about variation


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