dis·​par·​i·​ty | \ di-ˈsper-ə-tē How to pronounce disparity (audio) , -ˈspa-rə- \
plural disparities

Definition of disparity

: a noticeable and usually significant difference or dissimilarity economic/income disparities The fact is that America's colleges … have lately been exacerbating more than ameliorating the widening disparity of wealth and opportunity in American society.— Andrew Delbanco … in no other composer is the disparity between the man and his work so immense. Bach's life is considered stupefyingly ordinary, but his music is divine …— Edward Rothstein

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Disparity contains the Latin dis, meaning "apart" or "non-", so a disparity is a kind of "nonequality". The word is often used to describe a social or economic condition that's considered unfairly unequal: a racial disparity in hiring, a health disparity between the rich and the poor, an income disparity between men and women, and so on. Its adjective, disparate (accented on the first syllable), is often used to emphasize strong differences.

First Known Use of disparity

1571, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for disparity

borrowed from Middle French & Late Latin; Middle French disparité, borrowed from Late Latin disparitāt-, disparitās, from Latin dispar-, dispār "unequal, different" (from dis- dis- + par-, pār "matching, equal," of uncertain origin) + -itāt-, -itās -ity

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The first known use of disparity was in 1571

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Cite this Entry

“Disparity.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disparity. Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for disparity



English Language Learners Definition of disparity

: a noticeable and often unfair difference between people or things


dis·​par·​i·​ty | \ dis-ˈpar-ət-ē How to pronounce disparity (audio) \
plural disparities

Medical Definition of disparity

: the state of being different or dissimilar (as in the sensory information received) — see retinal disparity


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