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 difference on Wikipedia


From Middle English, from Old French difference, from Latin differentia (difference), from differēns (different), present participle of differre.


  • IPA(key): /ˈdɪfɹəns/
  • Hyphenation: dif‧fer‧ence
  • (file)


difference (countable and uncountable, plural differences)

  1. (uncountable) The quality of being different.
    You need to learn to be more tolerant of difference.
    Antonyms: identity, sameness
  2. (countable) A characteristic of something that makes it different from something else.
    • 2013 June 1, “Towards the end of poverty”, in The Economist[1], volume 407, number 8838, page 11:
      But poverty’s scourge is fiercest below $1.25 (the average of the 15 poorest countries’ own poverty lines, measured in 2005 dollars and adjusted for differences in purchasing power): people below that level live lives that are poor, nasty, brutish and short.
    There are three differences between these two pictures.
  3. (countable) A disagreement or argument.
    We have our little differences, but we are firm friends.
    • Shakespeare
      What was the difference? It was a contention in public.
    • T. Ellwood
      Away therefore went I with the constable, leaving the old warden and the young constable to compose their difference as they could.
  4. (countable, uncountable) Significant change in or effect on a situation or state.
    • 1908, Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
      The line of the horizon was clear and hard against the sky, and in one particular quarter it showed black against a silvery climbing phosphorescence that grew and grew. At last, over the rim of the waiting earth the moon lifted with slow majesty till it swung clear of the horizon and rode off, free of moorings; and once more they began to see surfaces—meadows wide-spread, and quiet gardens, and the river itself from bank to bank, all softly disclosed, all washed clean of mystery and terror, all radiant again as by day, but with a difference that was tremendous.
    It just won't make much difference to me.
    It just won't make much of a difference to anyone.
  5. (countable) The result of a subtraction; sometimes the absolute value of this result.
    The difference between 3 and 21 is 18.
  6. (obsolete) Choice; preference.
    • Spenser
      That now be chooseth with vile difference / To be a beast, and lack intelligence.
  7. (heraldry) An addition to a coat of arms to distinguish two people's bearings which would otherwise be the same. See augmentation and cadency.
  8. (logic) The quality or attribute which is added to those of the genus to constitute a species; a differentia.
  9. (logic circuits) A Boolean operation which is TRUE when the two input variables are different but is otherwise FALSE; the XOR operation ( ).
  10. (relational algebra) the set of elements that are in one set but not another ( ).


Derived termsEdit


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difference (third-person singular simple present differences, present participle differencing, simple past and past participle differenced)

  1. (obsolete, transitive) To distinguish or differentiate.
    • Harvey
      This simple spectation of the lungs is differenced from that which concomitates a pleurisy.
    (The addition of quotations indicative of this usage is being sought):



Related termsEdit

Further readingEdit

Old FrenchEdit

Alternative formsEdit


From Latin differentia.


difference f (oblique plural differences, nominative singular difference, nominative plural differences)

  1. difference