# Differential vs. Difference — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on October 25, 2023

**"Differential" relates to differences between things or to mathematical differentiation, while "Difference" means the quality or instance of being unlike.**

## Difference Between Differential and Difference

### Table of Contents

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## Key Differences

"Differential" and "Difference" both relate to disparities, but they operate within unique realms in the English language. "Differential" often finds its place in more specialized contexts, such as mathematics, engineering, or other fields, referring to specific kinds of differences or methods of differentiation. On the flip side, "Difference" is a more general term, representing any disparity or dissimilarity between two or more entities.

Dive into the realms of mathematics, and "Differential" stands as a fundamental concept, especially in calculus. It references infinitesimally small changes or the process of differentiation. Meanwhile, "Difference" in the same field would refer to the result of subtraction or the disparity between two numbers.

When one speaks of a "Differential gear" in mechanics, they're discussing a device that divides torque between wheels. In such specialized contexts, "Difference" might not have a direct application, signifying the particular nature of "Differential."

In everyday language, "Differential" might pertain to disparities in conditions or factors, such as a temperature differential. "Difference," in these contexts, would focus on the distinction or discrepancy between two things, like the difference in tastes between two dishes.

From a linguistic perspective, "Differential" operates mainly as an adjective, though it can be a noun in specialized settings. In contrast, "Difference" primarily serves as a noun, indicating disparities or distinctions in a broader sense.

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## Comparison Chart

### Part of Speech

Mainly an adjective, sometimes a noun in specialized contexts.

Primarily a noun.

### Typical Use

Technical fields like mathematics, mechanics, etc.

General use to indicate disparities.

### Context

Relates to differentiation or specific types of differences.

Refers to any kind of disparity or dissimilarity.

### Examples

Differential equation, temperature differential.

Difference in age, taste difference.

### Associated Domains

Calculus, Mechanics, Physics

Everyday language, arithmetic, comparisons.

## Compare with Definitions

#### Differential

Indicative of a device or method that allocates variable outputs.

A car's differential gear ensures the wheels rotate at different speeds during turns.

#### Difference

The quality or instance of being unlike or distinct.

The main difference between them is their age.

#### Differential

Relating to differences between elements or factors.

The differential effects of the drug became apparent during trials.

#### Difference

The degree by which one quantity or value varies from another.

The difference in their speeds was noticeable.

#### Differential

Of, relating to, or showing a difference.

#### Difference

The quality or condition of being unlike or dissimilar.

#### Differential

Constituting or making a difference; distinctive.

#### Difference

An instance of disparity or unlikeness

There is a big difference in sound between a clarinet and an oboe.

#### Differential

Dependent on or making use of a specific difference or distinction.

#### Difference

A degree or amount by which things differ

A difference in height of three inches.

#### Differential

(Mathematics) Of or relating to differentiation.

#### Difference

A noticeable change or effect

Exercise has made a difference in her health.

#### Differential

Involving differences in speed or direction of motion.

#### Difference

A disagreement or controversy

Let's settle our differences.

#### Differential

An infinitesimal increment in a variable.

#### Difference

Discrimination in taste or choice; distinction

In this case, the law should make no difference between young and old.

#### Differential

The product of the derivative of a function of one variable and the increment of the independent variable.

#### Difference

The amount by which one quantity is greater or less than another.

#### Differential

A differential gear.

#### Difference

The amount that remains after one quantity is subtracted from another.

#### Differential

A difference between comparable things, as in wage rate or in price.

#### Difference

To distinguish or differentiate.

#### Differential

Of or pertaining to a difference.

Differential characteristics

#### Difference

(uncountable) The quality of being different.

You need to learn to be more tolerant of difference.

#### Differential

Dependent on, or making a difference; distinctive.

#### Difference

(countable) A characteristic of something that makes it different from something else.

There are three differences between these two pictures.

#### Differential

Having differences in speed or direction of motion.

#### Difference

(countable) A disagreement or argument.

We have our little differences, but we are firm friends.

#### Differential

(mathematics) Of or pertaining to differentiation or the differential calculus.

#### Difference

Significant change in or effect on a situation or state.

It just won't make much difference to me.

It just won't make much of a difference to anyone.

#### Differential

The differential gear in an automobile, etc.

#### Difference

(countable) The result of a subtraction; sometimes the absolute value of this result.

The difference between 3 and 21 is 18.

#### Differential

A qualitative or quantitative difference between similar or comparable things.

#### Difference

(obsolete) Choice; preference.

#### Differential

(mathematics) An infinitesimal change in a variable, or the result of differentiation.

#### Difference

(heraldry) An addition to a coat of arms to distinguish two people's bearings which would otherwise be the same. See augmentation and cadency.

#### Differential

One of two coils of conducting wire so related to one another or to a magnet or armature common to both, that one coil produces polar action contrary to that of the other.

#### Difference

(logic) The quality or attribute which is added to those of the genus to constitute a species; a differentia.

#### Differential

A form of conductor used for dividing and distributing the current to a series of electric lamps so as to maintain equal action in all.

#### Difference

(logic circuits) A Boolean operation which is true when the two input variables are different but is otherwise false; the XOR operation ($\backslash scriptstyle\; A\; \backslash overline\; B\; +\; \backslash overline\; A\; B$).

#### Differential

Relating to or indicating a difference; creating a difference; discriminating; special; as, differential characteristics; differential duties; a differential rate.

For whom he produced differential favors.

#### Difference

(relational algebra) The set of elements that are in one set but not another ($\backslash scriptstyle\; A\; \backslash overline\; B$).

#### Differential

Of or pertaining to a differential, or to differentials.

#### Difference

To distinguish or differentiate.

#### Differential

Relating to differences of motion or leverage; producing effects by such differences; said of mechanism.

#### Difference

The act of differing; the state or measure of being different or unlike; distinction; dissimilarity; unlikeness; variation; as, a difference of quality in paper; a difference in degrees of heat, or of light; what is the difference between the innocent and the guilty?

Differencies of administration, but the same Lord.

#### Differential

An increment, usually an indefinitely small one, which is given to a variable quantity.

#### Difference

Disagreement in opinion; dissension; controversy; quarrel; hence, cause of dissension; matter in controversy.

What was the difference? It was a contention in public.

Away therefore went I with the constable, leaving the old warden and the young constable to compose their difference as they could.

#### Differential

A small difference in rates which competing railroad lines, in establishing a common tariff, allow one of their number to make, in order to get a fair share of the business. The lower rate is called a differential rate. Differentials are also sometimes granted to cities.

#### Difference

That by which one thing differs from another; that which distinguishes or causes to differ; mark of distinction; characteristic quality; specific attribute.

The marks and differences of sovereignty.

#### Differential

One of two coils of conducting wire so related to one another or to a magnet or armature common to both, that one coil produces polar action contrary to that of the other.

#### Difference

Choice; preference.

That now he chooseth with vile differenceTo be a beast, and lack intelligence.

#### Differential

The result of mathematical differentiation; the instantaneous change of one quantity relative to another; df(x)/dx

#### Difference

An addition to a coat of arms to distinguish the bearings of two persons, which would otherwise be the same. See Augmentation, and Marks of cadency, under Cadency.

#### Differential

A quality that differentiates between similar things

#### Difference

The quality or attribute which is added to those of the genus to constitute a species; a differentia.

#### Differential

A bevel gear that permits rotation of two shafts at different speeds; used on the rear axle of automobiles to allow wheels to rotate at different speeds on curves

#### Difference

The quantity by which one quantity differs from another, or the remainder left after subtracting the one from the other.

#### Differential

Relating to or showing a difference;

Differential treatment

#### Difference

To cause to differ; to make different; to mark as different; to distinguish.

Thou mayest difference gods from men.

Kings, in receiving justice and undergoing trial, are not differenced from the meanest subject.

So completely differenced by their separate and individual characters that we at once acknowledge them as distinct persons.

#### Differential

Involving or containing one or more derivatives;

Differential equation

#### Difference

The quality of being unlike or dissimilar;

There are many differences between jazz and rock

#### Differential

Pertaining to infinitesimally small changes, especially in calculus.

The differential calculus focuses on rates of change.

#### Difference

A variation that deviates from the standard or norm;

The deviation from the mean

#### Differential

Characterizing variances in conditions or characteristics.

There's a significant temperature differential between the two rooms.

#### Difference

A disagreement or argument about something important;

He had a dispute with his wife

There were irreconcilable differences

The familiar conflict between Republicans and Democrats

#### Differential

Describing specific disparities within particular contexts.

The pay differential between the two roles is justified by their responsibilities.

#### Difference

A significant change;

The difference in her is amazing

His support made a real difference

#### Difference

The number that remains after subtraction; the number that when added to the subtrahend gives the minuend

#### Difference

The result of subtracting one number from another.

The difference between ten and six is four.

#### Difference

A point or factor that distinguishes two entities.

One major difference in these products is their price.

#### Difference

A disagreement or dispute.

They had a difference of opinion on the matter.

## Common Curiosities

#### Is "Difference" always numerical?

No, it can refer to any form of disparity, whether qualitative or quantitative.

#### Can "Differential" and "Difference" be used interchangeably?

No, "Differential" often has technical contexts, while "Difference" is broader.

#### Is "Difference" more common in everyday language?

Yes, "Difference" is a more general term and appears frequently in daily conversations.

#### Can "Differential" relate to disparities in conditions?

Yes, like a pressure or temperature differential between two zones.

#### What's the primary part of speech for "Difference"?

"Difference" primarily functions as a noun.

#### What does "Differential calculus" refer to?

It relates to the study of rates of change and the process of differentiation in mathematics.

#### Where might you encounter the term "Differential" often?

Fields like calculus, mechanics, and physics frequently use "Differential."

#### How do "Temperature differential" and "Temperature difference" differ?

Both could refer to a disparity in temperature, but "differential" might imply specific conditions or settings.

#### Is "Differential" always technical in nature?

Often, but not always. It can be used in everyday contexts to indicate specific disparities.

#### Is "Difference" mainly arithmetic?

While it can refer to arithmetic subtraction, it also denotes disparities in general terms.

#### What's the simplest way to define "Difference"?

It denotes the quality or instance of being distinct or unlike.

#### Can "Differential" denote a device in mechanics?

Yes, such as a "differential gear" that divides torque between wheels.

#### Can "Difference" imply a disagreement?

Yes, like having a "difference of opinion" with someone.

#### How would you use "Difference" in arithmetic?

It can indicate the result of subtraction, like the difference between two numbers.

#### Does "Differential" only pertain to math?

No, while common in math, it's used in various fields to indicate specific types of differences.

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Written by

Fiza RafiqueFiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at AskDifference.com, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

Edited by

Tayyaba RehmanTayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.