Definition of differential in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌdifəˈren(t)SH(ə)l/
chiefly technical


1Of, showing, or depending on a difference; differing or varying according to circumstances or relevant factors: the differential achievements of boys and girls
More example sentences
  • This seems realistic as we have no evidence to suggest that management of risk factors may have differential benefit according to ethnic origin.
  • This emphasizes isoform-specific functions in relation to tissue water permeation or growth as well as differential responses to varying extents of the same abiotic stressor.
  • These differential effects did not depend on the child's age or parents' level of education.
different, dissimilar, contrasting, unalike, divergent, disparate, contrastive
1.1Constituting a specific difference; distinctive: the differential features between benign and malignant tumors
More example sentences
  • Fluorescence emission can provide a possible method to separate tissue constituents based on differential spectral features.
  • Not only offering the means to achieving differential gradations of colour and opacity, the process can also achieve true colour reproduction of photographs and complex graphics.
  • By proteograph analysis, none of these met the criteria as differential features between the two cell types, yet many of these proteins will have key roles in fundamental breast biology.
distinctive, distinguishing
1.2 Mathematics Relating to infinitesimal differences or to the derivatives of functions.
Example sentences
  • At Zurich, in addition to his work on set theory he also worked on differential geometry, number theory, probability theory and the foundations of mathematics.
  • This ‘index theorem’ had antecedents in algebraic geometry and led to important new links between differential geometry, topology and analysis.
  • His second area of work was on differential geometry in particular the theory of quadratic differential quantics.
1.3Relating to a difference in a physical quantity: a differential amplifier
More example sentences
  • Shifts in the field of view directly affected displacement output, but density increment and strain, being differential quantities, were unaffected.
  • A differential amplifier was used for signal amplification.
  • Rail-to-rail input common mode range differential amplifier that operates with very low rail-to-rail voltages


1A difference between amounts of things: the differential between gasoline and diesel prices
More example sentences
  • Certainly, the differential between the amount of American workers and Chinese workers will shrink.
  • The result included some desirable elements, such as the differential between urban and non-urban taxes and diesel fuel, but was fatally flawed by the commitment that the price of fuel would not increase.
  • A majority of American states either mandate or permit manual recounting when the differential between the machine vote totals for opposing candidates is within a certain margin.
1.1 Mathematics An infinitesimal difference between successive values of a variable.
Example sentences
  • It investigates the use of some functional equations in order to calculate the differentials of logarithmic and trigonometrical functions as well as the binomial expansion and Taylor formula.
  • He had shown when certain elliptic differentials could be integrated in logarithms but his methods was of little practical use.
  • He used differentials in his courses, which he supplemented with a special one on difference equations and numerical mathematics because engineers often work on discrete data.
1.2 (also differential gear) A set of gears allowing a vehicle’s driven wheels to revolve at different speeds when going around corners.
Example sentences
  • This same product also secures the crown wheel to the differential to prevent fretting (wear caused by small metal particles generated on assembly).
  • By applying brake pressure to a slipping wheel, torque is transferred across that axle's differential to the other wheel.
  • It's just a bunch of tiny things rather than big engines, differentials, heavy wheels, that comes out during the race, blocks made of wax in the springs that crush when the race starts.


Mid 17th century: from medieval Latin differentialis, from Latin differentia 'difference' (see differentia).

Words that rhyme with differential

cadential, confidential, consequential, credential, deferential, essential, evidential, existential, experiential, exponential, influential, intelligential, irreverential, jurisprudential, penitential, pestilential, potential, preferential, presidential, providential, prudential, quintessential, referential, residential, reverential, sapiential, sciential, sentential, sequential, tangential, torrential

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: dif·fer·en·tial

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