From Middle English difference, from Old French difference, from Latin differentia (“difference”), from differēns (“different”), present participle of differre. Doublet of differentia.
Morphologically differ + -ence.
difference (countable and uncountable, plural differences)
- (uncountable) The quality of being different.
- (countable) A characteristic of something that makes it different from something else.
- 2013 June 1, “Towards the end of poverty”, in The Economist, 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.
- (countable) A disagreement or argument.
- We have our little differences, but we are firm friends.
- 1611 April (first recorded performance), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Cymbeline”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene v]:
- What was the difference? It was a contention in public.
- 1714, Thomas Ellwood, The History of the Life of Thomas Ellwood: written by his own hand
- Away therefore went I with the constable, leaving the old warden and the young constable to compose their difference as they could.
- (countable, uncountable) Significant change in or effect on a situation or state.
- 1908 October, Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, →OCLC:
- 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.
- 1967, Barbara Sleigh, Jessamy, 1993 edition, Sevenoaks, Kent: Bloomsbury, →ISBN, page 105:
- As she did so Fanny put down her book , stood up and stretched her arms, and at once Jessamy noticed a difference. It was the same Fanny but not the Fanny who climbed trees and tore her frock playing in the garden. It was as though a young lady film had settled over her, neatening her unruly hair, which was tied back with a large black bow, and primly composing her small mouth.
- It just won't make much difference to me.
- It just won't make much of a difference to anyone.
- (countable) The result of a subtraction; sometimes the absolute value of this result.
- The difference between 3 and 21 is 18.
- (obsolete) Choice; preference.
- 1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book II, Canto XII”, in The Faerie Queene. […], London: […] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC:
- That now be chooseth with vile difference
To be a beast, and lack intelligence.
- (heraldry) An addition to a coat of arms to distinguish two people's bearings which would otherwise be the same. See augmentation and cadency.
- (logic) The quality or attribute which is added to those of the genus to constitute a species; a differentia.
- (logic circuits) A Boolean operation which is true when the two input variables are different but is otherwise false; the XOR operation ( ).
- (relational algebra) The set of elements that are in one set but not another ( ).
- (characteristic of something that makes it different from something else): departure, deviation, divergence, disparity
- (disagreement or argument about something important): conflict, difference of opinion, dispute, dissension
- (result of a subtraction): remainder
- (significant change in state): nevermind
- as near as makes no difference
- common difference
- creative differences
- deflection difference
- difference engine
- difference equation
- difference gate
- difference maker
- difference of two squares
- difference quotient
- difference set
- distinction without a difference
- electric potential difference
- finite difference
- goal difference
- know the difference between one's ass and a hole in the ground
- know the difference between one's ass and one's elbow
- learning difference
- make a difference
- make all the difference
- mass difference
- potential difference
- same difference
- set-theoretic difference
- split the difference
- spot the difference
- symmetric difference
- tell the difference
- time difference
- vive la difference
- what's the difference
- world of difference
Other terms used in arithmetic operations:
- addition, summation:
- (minuend) − (subtrahend) = (difference)
- multiplication, factorization:
- (multiplier) × (multiplicand) = (product)
- (factor) × (factor) × (factor)... = (product)
- root extraction:
- log(base) (antilogarithm) = (logarithm)
Advanced hyperoperations: tetration, pentation, hexation
difference (third-person singular simple present differences, present participle differencing, simple past and past participle differenced)
- (obsolete, transitive) To distinguish or differentiate.
- 1672, Gideon Harvey, Morbus Anglicus, Or, The Anatomy of Consumptions:
- This simple spectation of the lungs is differenced from that which concomitates a pleurisy.
- 1901 , Philip James Bailey, Festus: A Poem, London: George Routledge & Sons, page 10:
- […] and souls, like in the mass, but differenced in themselves, with special gifts, duties and joys […]
- 1904, Arthur Charles Fox-Davies, The Art of Heraldry: An Encyclopædia of Armory, London: T.C. & E.C. Jack, page 344:
- In the Calais Roll the arms of William de Warren […] are differenced by the addition of a canton said to be that of Fitzalan […]
- (to distinguish or differentiate): differentiate, distinguish
- difference in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
- difference in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911
From Old French difference, from Latin differēntia; equivalent to differren (“to postpone”) + -ence.
difference (plural differences or difference)
- Difference; the state of being different.
- A difference; an element which separates.
- Distinguishment; the finding or creation of dissimilarity.
- (heraldry, rare) A heraldic cadency for a family's junior branch.
- (mathematics, rare) The result of subtraction; an amount left over.
- (mathematics, rare) An order in decimal representation of numbers.
- (rare) Something that people do not agree upon.
- English: difference
- Scots: difference
- “difference, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 2019-07-31.
From Latin differentia.
difference f (oblique plural differences, nominative singular difference, nominative plural differences)
- → Middle English: difference, differens, defference, defferense, dyfferens
- English: difference
- Scots: difference
- French: différence