var·​i·​a·​tion | \ˌver-ē-ˈā-shən \

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 , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective
variationally adverb

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

In the early 1800s in England, football and rugby existed as different variations of the same game. Billy Perrigo, Time, "Why Do Americans Call It Soccer Instead of Football? Blame England," 11 July 2018 Boeing alleged that the planes would compete against variations of its popular 737 aircraft, which typically have 150 to 240 seats. Bart Jansen, USA TODAY, "Boeing strikes deal with Embraer to make regional jets," 5 July 2018 But now that the men have been found guilty, their lawyers have mobilized around variations of a single plea: Spare the life of Eloyn Ingraham. Spare the life of Bernard Forbes. Spare the life of Andre Delancy. Rafael Olmeda,, "Defense lawyers seek mercy for three convicted in Broward deputy's murder," 29 June 2018 And all my new supplies would go into the linen closet among the sheets and beach towels, to the shelf reserved for optimistic variations of myself that rarely surfaced. Longreads, "Trying to Kill the Want," 20 June 2018 That would only happen through close proximity to someone suffering from the variation of the disease known as pneumonic plague. Anna Gunther, CBS News, "Idaho boy recovering from rare case of plague," 13 June 2018 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that variations of vibrio can be found in brackish or salt water. Natalie Dreier, ajc, "Man contracts flesh-eating bacteria while crabbing, could lose arms, legs," 10 July 2018 All of the courses include different variations of zip lines. Caroline Blackmon, Detroit Free Press, "6 of the best zip line courses in Michigan," 3 July 2018 The most interesting exception is Sylvain Pataille, who makes four Aligoté, bottled separately to delineate subtle variations of each vineyard’s terroir. Patrick Comiskey,, "Alternatives to Burgundy, from Burgundy," 29 June 2018

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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Statistics for variation

Last Updated

8 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for variation

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

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More Definitions for variation



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 \

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- \

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 \ adjective

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