Specimen vs. Sample — What's the Difference?
By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on October 17, 2023
Specimen is an individual example from a category; Sample is representative portion of a larger whole.
Difference Between Specimen and Sample
Table of Contents
A specimen typically refers to an individual element, often used for the scientific study, that represents a class or whole; it's often unique and held for reference. A sample, however, represents a group or population and is a subset of it, meant to infer information about the larger group.
In medical terminology, a specimen is often a single instance of a substance, tissue, or organism for examination — like a blood specimen. Conversely, a sample refers to a portion of something larger used for testing; it could be a blood sample, but this represents part of a larger volume.
Specimen in a non-scientific context often refers to an individual observation or representative for educational or demonstrative purposes, such as a specimen in a museum. A sample is typically something distributed freely to represent a product or service, like food samples at a grocery store.
In collection settings, a specimen might be a singular item, like a specimen of currency in numismatics, that is kept pristine and unaltered. A sample, on the other hand, is often used and consumed during testing or demonstration processes, like a paint sample.
The term specimen is commonly used when the individual item is of particular importance or interest, like a rare specimen of a plant species. Sample implies routine collection or distribution for broader analysis or consumer testing, not emphasizing uniqueness.
Single, representative unit
Part of a larger whole
Analysis or demonstration
Testing or promotional use
Often unique or rare
Common or routine
Stands for a whole category
Infers about a larger group
Often used or consumed
Compare with Definitions
A single unit used for scientific examination.
The lab received a specimen for testing.
A segment that reflects a greater whole.
The scientist took a water sample for testing.
Something used to illustrate or explain.
The teacher used a plant specimen to explain the lesson.
A trial portion of a product.
They were handing out perfume samples at the mall.
An item kept for interest or value.
He added a unique specimen to his stamp collection.
A small part or quantity intended to show what the whole is like
Investigations involved analysing samples of handwriting
An individual instance representative of a group.
The museum displayed a specimen of the rare mineral.
A portion, piece, or segment that is representative of a whole
Showed samples of a new stretch fabric.
An individual, item, or part representative of a class or whole.
A sound or piece of music created by sampling
An organism, part of an organism, or fossil that has been collected and usually preserved, especially for display or scientific research.
Take a sample or samples of (something) for analysis
Bone marrow cells were sampled
A sample, as of tissue, blood, or urine, used for analysis and diagnosis.
Ascertain the momentary value of (an analogue signal) many times a second so as to convert the signal to digital form
The input signal must be sampled at twice its highest frequency
(Informal) An individual; a person
A disagreeable specimen.
A specimen taken for analysis or testing
A blood sample.
A water sample.
An individual instance that represents a class; an example.
Early specimens of the art of Picasso
(Statistics) A set of data or elements drawn from a larger population and analyzed to estimate the characteristics of that population. Also called sampling.
(numismatics) A banknote printed for distribution to central banks to aid in the recognition of banknotes from a country other than their own
A usually digitized audio segment taken from an original recording and inserted, often repetitively, in a new recording.
(philately) A postage stamp sent to postmasters and postal administrations so that they are able to identify valid stamps and to avoid forgeries
One of a series of pieces of data representing a digitized approximation of an analog signal.
A sample, especially one used for diagnostic analysis.
To take a sample of, especially to test or examine by a sample
The restaurant critic who must sample a little of everything.
An eligible man.
To use or incorporate (an audio segment of an original recording) in a new recording
A song that samples the bassline of a 1970s disco tune.
A part, or small portion, of anything, or one of a number of things, intended to exhibit the kind and quality of the whole, or of what is not exhibited; a sample; as, a specimen of a man's handwriting; a specimen of a person's blood; a specimen of painting; aspecimen of one's art.
To represent the value of (an analog signal) at a particular point in time by means of a piece of digital data.
An example regarded as typical of its class
Serving as a representative or example
Sample test questions.
A sample piece of fabric.
A bit of tissue or blood or urine that is taken for diagnostic purposes;
They collected a urine specimen for urinalysis
A part or snippet of something taken or presented for inspection, or shown as evidence of the quality of the whole; a specimen.
A blood sample
A model or prototype of a product.
They examined the specimen of the new coin design.
(statistics) A subset of a population selected for measurement, observation or questioning, to provide statistical information about the population.
Large samples are generally more reliable than small samples due to having less variability.
(cooking) A small quantity of food for tasting, typically given away for free.
(business) A small piece of some goods, for determining quality, colour, etc., typically given away for free.
(music) Gratuitous borrowing of easily recognised phases (or moments) from other music (or movies) in a recording.
(obsolete) Example; pattern.
(transitive) To take or to test a sample or samples of.
To reduce a continuous signal (such as a sound wave) to a discrete signal.
To reuse a portion of (an existing sound recording) in a new piece of music.
To make or show something similar to a sample.
Thus he concludes, and every hardy knightHis sample followed.
A part of anything presented for inspection, or shown as evidence of the quality of the whole; a specimen; as, goods are often purchased by samples.
I design this but for a sample of what I hope more fully to discuss.
To make or show something similar to; to match.
To take or to test a sample or samples of; as, to sample sugar, teas, wools, cloths.
A small part of something intended as representative of the whole
Items selected at random from a population and used to test hypotheses about the population
All or part of a natural object that is collected and preserved as an example of its class
Take a sample of;
Try these new crackers
Sample the regional dishes
A small part of something larger.
She tried a sample of the cheese.
A fractional part of a statistical population.
The survey results were based on a random sample of people.
Matter used for scientific testing or analysis.
The lab requires a blood sample for the experiment.
What is a specimen?
A specimen is an individual example of something, often used for scientific or educational purposes.
How large is a sample?
Sample size can vary and depends on what it's meant to represent.
Can a specimen be living?
Yes, specimens can be living organisms, especially in biology.
Are free product trials samples?
Yes, they're often called promotional samples.
Can a specimen be man-made?
Yes, it can be any example of a category, natural or man-made.
What's a random sample?
A subset chosen randomly from a population, where each has an equal chance of selection.
Can I collect samples for personal research?
Yes, if you follow legal and ethical guidelines.
What's a convenience sample?
It's a sample chosen for ease of availability, not randomness.
Can a sample represent an entire population?
Yes, if it's statistically representative.
Are digital copies considered specimens?
Typically, no. Specimens are usually tangible or physical items.
Is a specimen always unique?
Not always, but it's often a notable example of its kind.
Why are specimens important in science?
They provide a tangible basis for study and research.
Do specimens only refer to animals or plants?
No, they can refer to any example of a category, living or inanimate.
What's a biased sample?
It's a non-random sample that doesn't accurately represent the entire population.
Are all specimens kept in museums?
Many are, but specimens can be stored or displayed anywhere appropriate.
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Tayyaba 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.