I hear the term "differential" used in many cases where it seems like "difference" should be used instead. It is especially common in sports, some examples are run differential which is the difference between runs scored and runs allowed in a baseball season. Or points differential which is the difference of the average points per game scored by a team and the points scored by an opposing team in the NBA. Based on google's definition of differential, its essentially a synonym of difference. Adjective (seems ok):
of, showing, or depending on a difference; differing or varying according to circumstances or relevant factors.
Noun (seems sketchy):
a difference between amounts of things.
The term seems to be used interchangably with difference and that seems incorrect. The definition of differential as I understood it in school is referring to
an infinitesimal difference between successive values of a variable, which is commonly associated with the linear operator, the derivative operator, and which also has other related definitions in different contexts in mathematics. But, it all works well with the adjective definition, since all of these measures do indeed depend on a difference, specifically infinitesimal difference.
So is it acceptable to use it as a synonym for difference? The definition from Google seems like, since enough people use it that way, it was just accepted. Or perhaps, historically, differential really did just mean the same thing as difference, and Newton and Leibniz borrowed the term and give it new meaning when they invented Calculus?