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 variational (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective
variationally adverb

Synonyms for variation


interpretation, riff, take

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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

Her reluctance to socialize is just like your eagerness to, a normal variation in a normal personality. Washington Post, "Carolyn Hax: Instead of saying ‘None of your business,’ try ‘None of my business’," 11 Sep. 2019 Her reluctance to socialize is just like your eagerness to, a normal variation in a normal personality. Carolyn Hax, oregonlive, "Carolyn Hax: ‘I don’t know’ perfectly good answer to questions about newlywed’s baby plans," 11 Sep. 2019 Her reluctance to socialize is just like your eagerness to, a normal variation in a normal personality. Carolyn Hax, The Mercury News, "Carolyn Hax: When I show up solo, how do I explain her absence?," 11 Sep. 2019 So, variations in surface ozone correlate strongly with boundary layer ozone, said Kumar. Sahana Ghosh, Quartz India, "India’s noxious emissions are messing up neighbours’ air, too," 8 Sep. 2019 If frost were covered with no variation in premiums, farmers with frost-vulnerable farms, like ours, would load up and free-ride on members with less-vulnerable topography. Edward Lotterman, Twin Cities, "Real World Economics: What Dorian tells us about risk and scale," 8 Sep. 2019 Their paper challenged the general assumption by showing substantial cell-to-cell variation in swimming behavior among the individual bacteria. Quanta Magazine, "Bacterial Clones Show Surprising Individuality," 4 Sep. 2019 During natural variations in the distant past, carbon dioxide levels took thousands of years to change as much as humans have raised the levels in less than a century. Brandon Miller, CNN, "The science behind the climate crisis," 4 Sep. 2019 Bencic said she has been impressed by the variation in Andreescu’s game; Andreescu praised Bencic’s serve and movement. Los Angeles Times, "Bianca Andreescu battles back to reach U.S. Open semifinal against Belinda Bencic," 4 Sep. 2019

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

11 Oct 2019

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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 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 variational (audio) \ adjective

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