Unless you are comparing two different sets of items to then have a couple of differences and the differences are the same, I do not get it.

This would be analogous to: 12-9=3, 7-4=3. Here we have the same difference.

The problem is, I really don't think the average human is comparing two differences when using the term in question.

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    "Same difference" was once widely used as a slang way of saying 'There's no difference' [between what you just said and what was mentioned before] (N England, '60s-'70s) Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 17:01
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    Note, "No difference" is a neat, semi-formal or formal expression. "Same difference" means the same thing, but has slang/country connotations; it's not something you'd find in a scientific paper - being a rather silly oxymoron it's rather shunned in "cultured society", unless you use it for humorous purpose.
    – SF.
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 17:03
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    @maxywb agreed, better to downvote questions that could have been googled but apparently not explain why.
    – user36720
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 17:25
  • @EdwinAshworth - this phrase was used in the American mid-west at about the same time. And still is, come to think of it... Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 2:37
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    It's an idiotic way to say "no difference".
    – Davor
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 11:24

8 Answers 8


Same difference is an idiomatic oxymoron [Oxford Dictionary Online]. It effectively means

Whether these two choices are the same or different is immaterial to me.


The Urban Dictionary defines it as follows:

Another way of saying "whatever". It is often confused with "same thing", but you're really saying "OK, I admit that they're not the same thing, but they're not different enough for me to really care about it."

The Cambridge Idioms Dictionary defines it as

the difference between two things is not important

  • This is a wonderful and eloquent definition. Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 15:08
  • I like the explanation, but what is your souce?
    – Rhymoid
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 20:13
  • Same and different are words with substantially opposite meanings used together to form an internally contradictory concept. This is the basis of oxymoron as defined in ODO. There are numerous discussions of oxymoron in various treatises, but I don't think they especially enhance the answer. I have edited to indicate that the definition of oxymoron comes from ODO.
    – bib
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 20:54
  • You still haven't given any authority to support 'It effectively means "Whether these two choices are the same or different is immaterial to me" ' rather than a perverse take on 'it's the same thing' which I remember it being used for. I 'd have posted an answer if I could have found support for my view. Telling us what an oxymoron is is not an answer here. Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 6:49
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    @EdwinAshworth On this site we routinely look at a phrase, identify it as being a particular figure of speech, and provide a non-figurative meaning without citing an authority for the meaning. However I have added two as support lest my explanation fail to stand on its own.
    – bib
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 16:05

The expression is used to indicate that objections or differences between alternatives are of no or little importance or consequence.

Compare it to the use of "Whatever" to dismiss an objection.


People already defined it as meaning there is little or no difference between things being compared. I can't comment, so I am answering with my input.

A good example (meaning about the same thing) is "six of one, half-dozen of the other." (A dozen being 12)

Another is "To-MAY-to, to-MAH-to".

All of these are informal, but imply that they are the same thing. It is sort of a way to dismiss a straw-man argument, or more likely someone nitpicking details in a story.

Me: "My cousin Joe is a dumb hillbilly. He crashed his truck into a fencepost while drinking Bud Light!"

Insufferable bore: "Actually, he's a redneck; hillbillies come from the Appalachians. And he was drinking Keystone Ice."

Me: "Same difference."

This exchange implies that the details don't matter; his cousin is a 'low-class' drunk, regardless of the particulars.

  • Not the most eloquent examples, but the usage in the examples is certainly correct.
    – Pharap
    Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 7:18
  • @Pharap I think the phrase itself is a bit inellgant. Not sure I would use it in a formal setting. I do use it in conversations with friends/family on occasion though.
    – JSM
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 16:54

It actually means no difference or not much difference.

A good example can be found here: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/same-difference?q=same+difference

Please note that this is only an informal expression.

  • To me, "same difference" means what it says, not the opposite. It's not talking about the difference between the 2 things, it's talking about the difference each of them makes to the speaker.
    – Rupe
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 23:58

I think people are mashing together "same thing" and "no difference" into something that makes no sense at all but is supposed to mean either of those phrases.


There are two slightly different definitions given for the idiomatic and informal expression 'same difference':

same difference : the same; no difference at all. Pink, fuchsia, what does it matter? Same difference. Whether you go or I go, it's the same difference. [McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002]

and one adding that this is a value judgement, a hidden 'whatever':

Same difference : something that you say which means that the difference between two things is not important They were married for forty years, or was it thirty? Same difference - it was a long time anyway. [Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed.]

  • The OP already knows that some people in fact use the phrase in that way, and was probably looking for a more prescriptivist answer. It is an understatement to say that this way of using the phrase is informal. Its meaning in slang is confusingly at odds with its literal meaning (exemplified by 12-9=3 and 7-4=3) and that is a very good reason why it should be avoided.
    – jsw29
    Commented Jan 2, 2022 at 22:20

"Same difference" is an idiomatic expression used by someone to indicate the equivalence of two different options. For example, if someone is asked "Do you want to go to the movies or to the beach", and has no particular preference one way or another, the one queried might respond "same difference".

  • I would consider "same difference" in response to the example question a highly irregular response.
    – Pharap
    Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 7:16

Given your example of 12-9=3, 7-4=3, it appears that the expression (and it has been my understanding) is indicating that regardless of path the result is the same. Similarly, brasshat uses what appears to be two different results, but if looked at as the paths taken to a result, the speaker is indicating that the result (be it happy or sad) is the same.

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