1. the state or relation of being different; dissimilarity: There is a great difference between the two.
  2. an instance or point of unlikeness or dissimilarity: What accounts for the differences in their behavior?
  3. a significant change in or effect on a situation: His tact makes a difference in the way people accept his suggestions.
  4. a distinguishing characteristic; distinctive quality, feature, etc.: The difference in the two products is quality.
  5. the degree to which one person or thing differs from another.
  6. the act of distinguishing; discrimination; distinction.
  7. a disagreement in opinion.
  8. a dispute or quarrel.
  9. Also called finite distance. Mathematics.
    1. the amount by which one quantity is greater or less than another.
    2. relative complement.
    3. (of a function f) an expression of the form f(x + h) − f(x).
  10. a differentia.

verb (used with object), dif·fer·enced, dif·fer·enc·ing.

  1. to cause or constitute a difference in or between; make different.
  2. to perceive the difference in or between; discriminate.
  1. split the difference,
    1. to compromise, especially to make equal concessions.
    2. to divide the remainder equally: Let’s take half of the cake and let the three of them split the difference.


  1. the state or quality of being unlike
  2. a specific instance of being unlike
  3. a distinguishing mark or feature
  4. a significant change in a situationthe difference in her is amazing
  5. a disagreement or argumenthe had a difference with his wife
  6. a degree of distinctness, as between two people or things
    1. the result of the subtraction of one number, quantity, etc, from another
    2. the single number that when added to the subtrahend gives the minuend; remainder
  7. logic another name for differentia
  8. maths (of two sets)
    1. the set of members of the first that are not members of the secondSymbol: A – B
    2. symmetric differencethe set of members of one but not both of the given setsOften symbolized: A + B
  9. heraldry an addition to the arms of a family to represent a younger branch
  10. make a difference
    1. to have an effect
    2. to treat differently
  11. split the difference
    1. to settle a dispute by a compromise
    2. to divide a remainder equally
  12. with a difference with some peculiarly distinguishing quality, good or bad

verb (tr)

  1. rare to distinguish
  2. heraldry to add a charge to (arms) to differentiate a branch of a family

mid-14c., from Old French difference (12c.) “difference, distinction; argument, dispute,” from Latin differentia “diversity, difference,” from differentem (nominative differens), present participle of differre “to set apart” (see differ). Sense of “a quarrel” first attested late 14c. Colloquial phrase what’s the diff? first recorded 1896.


  1. The magnitude or degree by which one quantity differs from another of the same kind.

see make a difference; split the difference. Also see under different.

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