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 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 adult clothing starts at size XS and goes to 5X, and there is no price variation based on size. Anna Moeslein, Glamour, 6 Oct. 2021 Current efforts focus almost exclusively on interpreting viral variation in terms of changes to the function of the spike protection. William A. Haseltine, Forbes, 5 Oct. 2021 But a team of American scientists mutated the stem of the coronavirus genome in nearly 4,000 different ways and tested each variation. Richard Muller And Steven Quay, WSJ, 5 Oct. 2021 So TruVoice helps me with the overall number and also word variation. Dave Eggers, Wired, 30 Sep. 2021 This autumnal variation starts with a nutty, textured slice of whole grain toast. Washington Post, 30 Sep. 2021 Hundreds of pages in, as new characters continue to be introduced, readers may crave some variation. Los Angeles Times, 22 Sep. 2021 But his group has found that there is nonetheless variation among regions: About 98 percent of electric vehicles sold in China last year were assembled in that country, while 72 percent of those sold in the United States were assembled domestically. New York Times, 22 Sep. 2021 How could color variation based on such a tiny genetic difference have such a large effect? Ben Crair, The New Yorker, 21 Sep. 2021

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

17 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Variation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 2021.

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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
: 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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