What are the differences between different, divergent, disparate and distinct?

  • 3
    Hi, kapil. Can you clarify what your specific question is? Any dictionary can define those words for you, and it would help if you could give some indication of what in particular you find confusing. – JSBձոգչ Jul 28 '11 at 16:26
  • well there is a very fine difference between the meanings of words,although they sound altogether the same..but when it comes to usage i find it difficult to decide that which and where to use... – kapil mathur Jul 28 '11 at 16:46
  • The ______ regions of Spain all have unique cultures, but the _______ views within each region make the issue of an acceptable common language of instruction an even more contentious on a)different,discrete b)distinct,disparate c)divergent,distinct d)different,competing Now tell me what ur answer would be??? – kapil mathur Jul 28 '11 at 16:52
  • 1
    Voting to reopen. Dictionaries do not ordinarily give clear information about the precise differences (if any) between words with closely-related meaning. I believe EL&U can and should help to plug that gap in at least some cases, this being one of them. – FumbleFingers Jul 28 '11 at 23:04
  • 1
    @simchona: Many if not most questions on EL&U could be called "exercises" if you look at them that way. I'd be interested to see the most succinct answer possible for this Q. Which I do not think is trivial, nor easily answered from a dictionary alone. Apparently my vote to reopen "expired", but I can still vote again. – FumbleFingers Aug 3 '11 at 2:51

Different is the broadest and most vague expression of difference, but generally it means a difference of a quality of two or more things. "They were of different __"

Divergent suggests two things which are "moving" but apart from each other. "They had divergent philosophies on the importance of the State."

Disparate tends to suggest quite a wide gap. Often in the context of things scattered, or quite far apart. Incomparable. "They had disparate views on the necessity of cinema."

Distinct merely indicates that two qualities or objects are not the same. They may be "similar, but distinct" or they may be "quite distinct" (i.e. you'd have to be a moron to not notice the difference).

Each has a correct usage. When in doubt go for "difference". It covers most of the ground and there's no point in using a big word if you have to ask about it.

  • 2
    +1 for "there's no point in using a big word if you have to ask about it." True, and Lol! – Kris Jan 13 '12 at 11:14
  • I like the definition for "disparate" given by dictionary.reference.com: "distinct in kind; essentially different". – Tom Barron Sep 29 '15 at 13:47
  • @TomBarron, Doesn't <disparate> means <dissimilar>? vocabulary.com/dictionary/disparate – Pacerier Jul 9 '17 at 12:12
  • @Pacerier, they are similar, but <disparate> implies more difference to me than <dissimilar> does. Apples and oranges are dissimilar (but both are fruit). Old clothes, rotting food, and missing relatives are disparate -- they are different categories of things. The two words may have different connotations to other people. – Tom Barron Jul 12 '17 at 22:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.