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

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    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. Jul 28, 2011 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... Jul 28, 2011 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??? Jul 28, 2011 at 16:52
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    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. Jul 28, 2011 at 23:04
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    @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. Aug 3, 2011 at 2:51

1 Answer 1


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.

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    +1 for "there's no point in using a big word if you have to ask about it." True, and Lol!
    – Kris
    Jan 13, 2012 at 11:14
  • I like the definition for "disparate" given by dictionary.reference.com: "distinct in kind; essentially different".
    – Tom Barron
    Sep 29, 2015 at 13:47
  • @TomBarron, Doesn't <disparate> means <dissimilar>? vocabulary.com/dictionary/disparate
    – Pacerier
    Jul 9, 2017 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, 2017 at 22:42

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