Things that show a difference or act in different ways can be described as differential. You and your sister may get differential benefits from eating a vegetarian diet.

You're most likely to come across the adjective differential in scholarly or scientific writing — it's really just a more formal way to say "different" or "differing." Sociological studies or articles often describe differential circumstances or outcomes, like the differential effects on various children of being raised with one parent. The Latin differentia is at the root of differential — it means "diversity or difference," and it comes from differre, "to set apart."

Definitions of differential
  1. noun
    a quality that differentiates between similar things
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    type of:
    the quality of being unlike or dissimilar
  2. noun
    the result of mathematical differentiation; the instantaneous change of one quantity relative to another; df(x)/dx
    synonyms: derivative, derived function, differential coefficient, first derivative
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    the rate of change (at a point) of the angle between a curve and a tangent to the curve
    partial, partial derivative
    the derivative of a function of two or more variables with respect to a single variable while the other variables are considered to be constant
    type of:
    calculation, computation, figuring, reckoning
    problem solving that involves numbers or quantities
  3. adjective
    relating to or showing a difference
    differential treatment”
  4. adjective
    involving or containing one or more derivatives
    differential equation”
  5. noun
    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
Word Family

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