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 (dĭf′ər-əns, dĭf′rəns)
1. The quality or condition of being unlike or dissimilar.
a. An instance of disparity or unlikeness: There is a big difference in sound between a clarinet and an oboe.
b. A degree or amount by which things differ: a difference in height of three inches.
3. A noticeable change or effect: Exercise has made a difference in her health.
4. A disagreement or controversy: Let's settle our differences.
5. Discrimination in taste or choice; distinction: In this case, the law should make no difference between young and old.
6. Mathematics
a. The amount by which one quantity is greater or less than another.
b. The amount that remains after one quantity is subtracted from another.
tr.v. dif·fer·enced, dif·fer·enc·ing, dif·fer·enc·es
To distinguish or differentiate.
Synonyms: difference, dissimilarity, unlikeness, divergence, variation, distinction, discrepancy
These nouns refer to a lack of correspondence or agreement. Difference is the most general: differences in color and size; a difference of degree but not of kind.
Dissimilarity and unlikeness often suggest a wide or fundamental difference: the dissimilarity between human and computer language; attracted to each other by their very unlikeness.
However, dissimilarity is also used to emphasize the points of difference between things that are otherwise alike or comparable: an analysis of the dissimilarities between the two sets of data.
Divergence can denote a difference resulting from a branching or separation; alternatively, it can indicate a range of difference within a category: the growing divergence between British and American English; a large group with a divergence of opinions on the subject.
Variation occurs between things of the same class or species; often it refers to a modification of something original, prescribed, or typical: variations in temperature; a variation of a familiar technique.
Distinction often means a difference in detail determinable only by close inspection: the distinction between "good" and "excellent."
A discrepancy is a difference between things that should correspond or match: a discrepancy between his words and his actions.


  1. Alike as the gap between Little League and Major League —Anon
  2. Alike as an oil portrait and a polaroid snapshot —Anon
  3. Alike as a cliche and a sonnet —Rod MacLeish, National Public Radio, December 29, 1986

    In his obituary on mystery writer John MacDonald, MacLeish used the simile to point out the difference between MacDonald’s Travis McGee character with Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe.

  4. Alike as a mom and pop grocery store and a multi-national corporation —Anon
  5. Alike as an abacus and a computer —Anon
  6. Alike as an elephant and a giraffe —Anon
  7. Alike as grains of sand —Anon
  8. Alike as human faces —Anon
  9. Alike as six pebbles on the beach —Eudora Welty
  10. Alike as the gap between doing a gig at a neighborhood wedding and being on prime time TV —Anon
  11. Alike as an apple is to a lobster —John Ray’s Proverbs

    A variation on the same theme, also from John Ray’s Proverbs is “As alike as an apple is to an oyster.” Other entries in this section merely hint at the endless twists possible.

  12. As like this as a crab’s like an apple —William Shakespeare

    Here we have the above simile turned around, with the apple the comparison.

  13. (In this world it is rarely possible to settle matters with an “either, or,” since there are) as many gradations of emotion and conduct as there are stages between a hooked nose and one that turns up —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  14. Different as a moonbeam from lightning, as frost from fire —Emily Brontë
  15. (You and I are as) different as chalk and cheese —John Ray’s Proverbs
  16. Opposite as yea and nay —Francis Quarles
  17. (Two faces) different as hot and cold —Dannie Abse
  18. Different as three men singing the same chorus from three men playing three tunes on the same piano —G. K. Chesterton
  19. Different as yin from yang —Harry Prince
  20. Everything has in fact another side to it, like the moon —G. K. Chesterton
  21. Sharply defined as salt and pepper —Anon
  22. The difference between vivacity and wit is the same as the difference between the lightning-bug and lightning —Josh Billings
  23. Various as the fancies of men in pursuit of a wife —James Ralph
References in classic literature ?
Perhaps," added the scout, losing his dissembled coolness exactly in proportion as the other manifested an indifference to the exchange, "if I should condition to teach your young men the real virtue of the we'pon, it would smoothe the little differences in our judgments.
It was generally attributed to differences between himself and his partners on the question of further outlay of their earnings on mining improvements--he and Philip Carr alone representing a sanguine minority whose faith in the future of the mine accepted any risks.
You would have seen other differences had you looked a little longer," said Holgrave, laughing, yet apparently much struck.
I reflected acutely that the sense of such differences, such superiorities of quality, always, on the part of the majority--which could include even stupid, sordid headmasters-- turn infallibly to the vindictive.
It is by endless subdivisions based upon the most inconclusive differences, that some departments of natural history become so repellingly intricate.
I say, now," said the drover, touching his elbow, "there's differences in parsons, an't there?
One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.
My master and myself had quite a number of differences.
He had not kept his promise of treating me like his sisters; he continually made little chilling differences between us, which did not at all tend to the development of cordiality: in short, now that I was acknowledged his kinswoman, and lived under the same roof with him, I felt the distance between us to be far greater than when he had known me only as the village schoolmistress.
But there were some differences between Em'ly's orphanhood and mine, it appeared.
There were stronger differences between him and her, than there had been between him and his father, and it is suspected that he cherished a deep and mortal grudge against her, as having influenced the father's anger.
Snell, the landlord, a man of a neutral disposition, accustomed to stand aloof from human differences as those of beings who were all alike in need of liquor, broke silence, by saying in a doubtful tone to his cousin the butcher--