Let's say I ran a 200m. And my lap times would be: 14.50 seconds on the first 100m and 13.70 seconds in the last 100m.

What would one call the difference between those two lap times (0.80 seconds).

In Dutch we have a name for it: verval (literal: decay or decline). I was wondering if the English language has one.


@AndyT answered: Delta. This is used in Formula 1, Mathemetics and Physics. Can someone substantiate this? Note: I am looking for a term that is commonly used in sports.

  • What is the Dutch word (and its literal translation)? Does it include the direction of the change (in this case faster)? Negative splitsmight fit, but that normally refers to longer runs. This guide to running terminology might be of interest.
    – Chris H
    Feb 19, 2018 at 12:56
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    The Dutch word is "verval". The literal translation would be decay or decline. But you can have a negative or positive 'verval'. In my question it would be negative, since the second lap time is slower than the first one. Feb 19, 2018 at 13:51
  • How would simple "difference" not fit your need, please? Feb 20, 2018 at 1:26
  • @RobbieGoodwin because in Dutch the term "difference" (Dutch: "verschil") and "whatever the commonly used term for the difference between lap/split times in sports is" (Dutch: "verval") are different. And I was wondering if the English language has a term for this. But I guess it's not very well known. Feb 20, 2018 at 12:09
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    Whatever else, how did "delta" creep into this? "Delta v" is used in maths and physics - I don't follow F1 - to mean "change in velocity" and that's so far from being the same thing as "different time", you might as well say they had nothing to do with each other. Feb 21, 2018 at 23:23

2 Answers 2


In Formula 1 this would be referred to as a (pronounced delta).

In science/engineering in general delta (the fourth letter of the greek alphabet) is used to denote changes or differences (ref: wikipedia). For example ∆v is the change in velocity (ref: wikipedia).

In Formula 1 "delta" is used for the difference in lap time, most often the difference in lap time up to the current point in the lap. Often when talking about their fastest lap drivers will say something along the lines of:

I came round the 9th corner, checked the delta on my steering wheel, and saw I was massively up on my previous fastest

  • Could you supply a reference to this. I have never heard of it before and I have a science background.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 19, 2018 at 19:45
  • @NigelJ - The best reference I found (for the science/engineering bit) was dictionary.com definition 5: "Mathematics. an incremental change in a variable". I remember from A-level maths and physics and my engineering degree that you'd talk about e.g. "delta-v" for change in velocity, but I have no reference for that. Note that the greek upper case letter would be used, rather than the word "delta", but I don't know how to write that on here.
    – AndyT
    Feb 20, 2018 at 9:07
  • The cursive delta - δ - is commomly used in calculus for the rate of change, but I think you need a reference to support using the uncial form of delta - Δ - to describe differences in value.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 20, 2018 at 11:01
  • @NigelJ - Fair enough. A bit of digging in the right place (specifically: googling "delta v") and I've found a better reference. Answer edited.
    – AndyT
    Feb 20, 2018 at 11:19
  • This sounds familiar! There's a part of teaching material in Mathematics and Physics: Differentiating. In this case, Delta is the value of acceleration or deceleration! Feb 20, 2018 at 12:01

I heard the term 'splits' used but I am not sure if that is the difference between competitors?

  • I think that splits are the same as laps. But I'm not so sure as well... Feb 19, 2018 at 13:50
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    I too heard the terms 'negative split' and 'positive split'. An example of a negative split is in my question. A positive split would be when the second lap time is slower than the first one. - So maybe it is 'split'! Feb 19, 2018 at 13:52
  • I think splits works, but the link in my comment implies the splits are longer than this. However that link is more to do with distance/road running than track running. I'm not an expert though.
    – Chris H
    Feb 19, 2018 at 14:11
  • Just to try to clear things up a bit, splits can apply to any random portion of an event and start from the starting gun. So in the 10k cross-country ski racing at the Olympics, they reported splits for 1.6k, 5k, and 8.2k, or something like that. The split times were cumulative and used for comparison with different competitors. Lap times, or intervals, are different. They are not cumulative.
    – Phil Sweet
    Feb 19, 2018 at 14:38
  • Allright! So I guess that I am looking for the term 'split' here. And that the difference between a split is simply: the difference between a split. Though, why are reporters talking about positive and negative splits? Feb 19, 2018 at 15:01

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