Ask Difference

Virtual vs. Digital — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on October 24, 2023
"Virtual" refers to something simulated or extended by computer software, while "digital" pertains to data expressed using digits, typically binary code.
Virtual vs. Digital — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Virtual and Digital

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Key Differences

"Virtual" and "digital" are terms commonly used in the realm of technology, yet they have distinct definitions. "Virtual" typically denotes something that isn't physically present but is simulated or emulated by software. For instance, a virtual meeting happens online rather than in person. On the other hand, "digital" is a term that speaks to information represented by digits, especially binary digits.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 24, 2023
The rise of technology has seen the increased usage of both "virtual" and "digital" terminologies. A virtual classroom offers an environment where learners and educators interact through digital tools without being in the same physical space. Conversely, digital textbooks are electronic versions of printed books, emphasizing the format in which they are presented.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 24, 2023
While both "virtual" and "digital" may sometimes be used interchangeably, they bear different implications. Virtual reality, for example, provides users with a simulated three-dimensional environment, allowing immersion in an experience that feels real but isn't. Digital reality might be seen as an umbrella term that includes various electronically generated realities, whether they're simulations like virtual reality or augmentations of the real world.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 24, 2023
Understanding the distinctions between "virtual" and "digital" becomes crucial in specific industries. For example, in the music realm, a virtual instrument is software that emulates the sound of an actual instrument. In contrast, digital music refers to music that is stored and played back using digital technology, replacing the analog formats of the past.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 24, 2023
While "virtual" leans towards simulation and emulation, "digital" leans towards the format of information. However, as technology continues to evolve, the lines between the two can sometimes blur, making it essential to grasp each term's context and specific meaning.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 24, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Definition

Pertains to simulation or emulation.
Relates to information in digital form.
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Usage

Refers to non-physical presence.
Refers to data expressed as digits.
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Common Context

Virtual meetings, virtual reality.
Digital media, digital devices.
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Relation to Tech

Software-created simulations.
Electronic representation of data.
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Real vs. Virtual

Can be a simulation of a real object.
Represents actual data in digital form.
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Compare with Definitions

Virtual

Simulated by a computer for reasons of economics or flexibility.
He learned to fly using a virtual simulator.
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Digital

Involving or relating to the use of computer technology.
The digital age has changed how we access information.
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Virtual

Having the essence or effect without the actual form.
She's the virtual leader of the group, even if not officially so.
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Oct 24, 2023

Digital

Displayed in numerical digits rather than by a pointer or hands.
She checks the time on her digital watch.
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Oct 24, 2023

Virtual

Existing or resulting in essence or effect though not in actual fact, form, or name
The virtual extinction of the buffalo.
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Digital

Of, relating to, or using data in the form of numerical digits.
Digital communication involves sending messages through electronic means.
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Oct 24, 2023

Virtual

Existing in the mind, especially as a product of the imagination. Used in literary criticism of a text.
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Sep 26, 2021

Digital

Relating to or performed with the fingers;
Digital examination
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Virtual

Existing as or by means of digital media
A virtual classroom.
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Digital

Relating to or resembling a digit, especially a finger.
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Virtual

Relating to or existing in virtual reality
A virtual encounter in a chatroom.
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Sep 26, 2021

Digital

Operated or done with the fingers
A digital switch.
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Sep 26, 2021

Virtual

Emulating the function of another system or device.
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Digital

Having digits.
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Virtual

In effect or essence, if not in fact or reality; imitated, simulated.
In fact a defeat on the battlefield, Tet was a virtual victory for the North, owing to its effect on public opinion.
Virtual addressing allows applications to believe that there is much more physical memory than actually exists.
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Sep 26, 2021

Digital

Expressed in discrete numerical form, especially for use by a computer or other electronic device
Digital information.
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Sep 26, 2021

Virtual

Having the power of acting or of invisible efficacy without the agency of the material or measurable part; potential.
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Sep 26, 2021

Digital

Relating to or being a device that can generate, record, process, receive, transmit, or display information that is represented in discrete numerical form.
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Virtual

Nearly, almost. (A relatively recent development in meaning)
The angry peasants were a virtual army as they attacked the castle.
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Digital

Relating to or being a service that provides information expressed in discrete numerical form
We subscribe to digital cable.
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Virtual

Simulated in a computer or online.
The virtual world of his computer game allowed character interaction.
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Digital

Relating to or being a profession or activity that is performed using digital devices
A digital librarian.
Digital photography.
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Virtual

Operating by computer or in cyberspace; not physically present.
A virtual assistant
A virtual personal trainer
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Digital

Using or giving a reading in digits
A digital clock.
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Virtual

Capable of being overridden with a different implementation in a subclass.
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Digital

Characterized by widespread use of computers
Living in the digital age.
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Virtual

(physics) Pertaining to particles in temporary existence due to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
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Digital

A key played with the finger, as on a piano.
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Virtual

A virtual member function of a class.
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Digital

Having to do with digits (fingers or toes); performed with a finger.
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Virtual

(gambling) A computer simulation of a real-world sport such as horse racing.
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Digital

Property of representing values as discrete, often binary, numbers rather than a continuous spectrum.
Digital computer
Digital clock
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Virtual

Having the power of acting or of invisible efficacy without the agency of the material or sensible part; potential; energizing.
Heat and cold have a virtual transition, without communication of substance.
Every kind that lives,Fomented by his virtual power, and warmed.
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Sep 26, 2021

Digital

Of or relating to computers or the Information Age.
Digital payment systems are replacing cash transactions.
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Sep 26, 2021

Virtual

Being in essence or effect, not in fact; as, the virtual presence of a man in his agent or substitute.
A thing has a virtual existence when it has all the conditions necessary to its actual existence.
To mask by slight differences in the manners a virtual identity in the substance.
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Sep 26, 2021

Digital

(finance) A digital option.
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Virtual

Being actually such in almost every respect;
A practical failure
The once elegant temple lay in virtual ruin
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Sep 26, 2021

Digital

(uncountable) Digital equipment or technology.
He moved to digital for the first time, using a Sony camera.
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Sep 26, 2021

Virtual

Being such in essence or effect though not in actual fact;
A virtual dependence on charity
A virtual revolution
Virtual reality
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Sep 26, 2021

Digital

(music) Any of the keys of a piano or similar instrument.
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Sep 26, 2021

Virtual

Existing or occurring on computers or on the internet.
We attended a virtual conference last week.
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Oct 24, 2023

Digital

A finger.
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Sep 26, 2021

Virtual

Nearly or almost.
It was a virtual disaster.
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Oct 24, 2023

Digital

Of or pertaining to the fingers; done with the fingers; as, digital compression; digital examination.
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Sep 26, 2021

Virtual

Not physically existing but made to appear so by software.
They explored ancient Rome through a virtual tour.
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Digital

Of or pertaining to digits{3}; expressed in digits{3}, or using digits{3}; as, a digital display; a digital clock.
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Digital

Performing internal logical and arithmetic operations by means of digits, usually represented as binary numbers. Contrasted to analog, wherein variables are represented as coninuous physical quantities such as voltages or the position of a pointer on a continuous scale; as, a digital computer.
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Sep 26, 2021

Digital

Of a circuit or device that represents magnitudes in digits;
Digital computer
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Digital

Displaying numbers rather than scale positions;
Digital clock
Digital readout
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Digital

Of or relating to the fingers or digits.
He has a digital deformity.
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Digital

Using or characterized by computer technology.
The world has experienced a digital revolution.
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Common Curiosities

How is "digital music" different from traditional music?

Digital music is stored and played using digital technology, while traditional music might use analog formats.
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Are "virtual" and "digital" synonyms?

No, while related in technology contexts, "virtual" often means simulated, and "digital" pertains to data in digit form.
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What does "virtual" mean outside tech contexts?

Outside tech, "virtual" can mean "almost" or "nearly," like "a virtual certainty."
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Are all digital things virtual?

No, while many digital things can be part of virtual systems, not all digital items are virtual.
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Is "virtual learning" the same as "digital learning"?

No, virtual learning often refers to online classrooms, while digital learning can involve any educational technology.
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Oct 24, 2023

Are photographs digital?

If taken with a digital camera or stored electronically, they are digital. Traditional film photographs are not.
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Can something be both virtual and digital?

Yes, a virtual classroom can use digital tools for interaction.
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What's a "virtual reality"?

Virtual reality is a simulated, immersive environment created using computer technology.
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Can a meeting be both virtual and digital?

Yes, a virtual meeting conducted online uses digital tools and platforms.
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Is a "digital clock" virtual?

No, a digital clock displays time using numbers, but it isn't a simulation or emulation.
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Can something be "virtually real"?

Yes, it means it's so close to being real that it's almost indistinguishable, especially in simulated environments.
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What's an example of a "virtual" experience?

Virtual gaming, where players enter a computer-generated environment.
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How do digital devices store data?

Digital devices store data using binary code, represented by 0s and 1s.
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How has "virtual" technology impacted social interaction?

Virtual technology, like social media, has allowed for global interactions but also raised concerns about authentic human connections.
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How has the digital era impacted businesses?

The digital era has enabled online transactions, marketing, and global reach for businesses.
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Oct 24, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
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.

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