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From New Latin *differentiatus, past participle of differentiare, from Latin differentia (difference); see difference.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /dɪf.əˈɹɛn.ʃi.eɪt/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˌdɪ.fəˈɹɛnt.ʃi.eɪt/
  • (file)
  • (file)


differentiate (third-person singular simple present differentiates, present participle differentiating, simple past and past participle differentiated)

  1. (transitive) To show, or be the distinction between two things.
    • Earle
      The word "then" was differentiated into the two forms "then" and "than".
    • 1933, George Orwell, “Ch. XXII”, in Down and Out in Paris and London, Harvest / Harcourt paperback edition, page 120:
      The mass of the rich and poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else, and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit.
  2. (intransitive) To perceive the difference between things; to discriminate.
    • 1964, New York Times v. Sullivan:
      he refused to instruct that actual intent to harm or recklessness had to be found before punitive damages could be awarded, or that a verdict for respondent should differentiate between compensatory and punitive damages.
  3. (transitive, intransitive) To modify, or be modified.
  4. (transitive, mathematics) To calculate the derivative of a function.
  5. (transitive, mathematics) To calculate the differential of a function of multiple variables.
  6. (intransitive, biology) To produce distinct organs or to achieve specific functions by a process of development called differentiation.
    • 1930, Robert Evans Snodgrass, Insects: Their Ways and Means of Living:
      In Chapter IV we learned that every animal consists of a body, or soma, formed of cells that are differentiated from the germ cells usually at an early stage of development.



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differentiate (plural differentiates)

  1. (geology) Something that has been differentiated or stratified.
    • 1969, Alexander R. McBirney, Geology and Petrology of the Galápagos Islands, page 185:
      There is no discernable tendency, however, for the differentiates to fall into two extremities, as would be expected if they were trending toward distinct eutectics in a residua system.
    • 1991, Roger H. Mitchell, Petrology of Lamproites, page 10:
      This latter terminology is particularly favored by Soviet petrologists, e.g.. Bogatikov et al. (1985), who believe that any magma typically exhibits both agpaitic and miascitic differentiates.