1. of or relating to difference or diversity.
  2. constituting a difference; distinguishing; distinctive: a differential feature.
  3. exhibiting or depending upon a difference or distinction.
  4. Physics, Machinery. pertaining to or involving the difference of two or more motions, forces, etc.
  5. Mathematics. pertaining to or involving a derivative or derivatives.


  1. a difference or the amount of difference, as in rate, cost, quantity, degree, or quality, between things that are comparable.
  2. Also called differential gear. Machinery. an epicyclic train of gears designed to permit two or more shafts to rotate at different speeds, as a set of gears in an automobile permitting the rear wheels to be driven at different speeds when the car is turning.
  3. Mathematics.
    1. a function of two variables that is obtained from a given function, y = f(x), and that expresses the approximate increment in the given function as the derivative of the function times the increment in the independent variable, written as dy = f′(x)dx.
    2. any generalization of this function to higher dimensions.
  4. Commerce.
    1. the difference involved in a differential rate.
    2. differential rate.
  5. Physics. the quantitative difference between two or more forces, motions, etc.: a pressure differential.


  1. of, relating to, or using a difference
  2. constituting a difference; distinguishing
  3. maths of, containing, or involving one or more derivatives or differentials
  4. physics engineering relating to, operating on, or based on the difference between two effects, motions, forces, etcdifferential amplifier


  1. a factor that differentiates between two comparable things
  2. maths
    1. an increment in a given function, expressed as the product of the derivative of that function and the corresponding increment in the independent variable
    2. an increment in a given function of two or more variables, f(x 1, x 2, … x n), expressed as the sum of the products of each partial derivative and the increment in the corresponding variable
  3. an epicyclic gear train that permits two shafts to rotate at different speeds while being driven by a third shaftSee also differential gear
  4. mainly British the difference between rates of pay for different types of labour, esp when forming a pay structure within an industry
  5. (in commerce) a difference in rates, esp between comparable labour services or transportation routes

1640s, from Medieval Latin differentialis, from Latin differentia (see difference). Related: Differentially.

  1. An infinitesimal increment in a variable.
  2. The product of the derivative of a function of one variable and the increment of the independent variable.

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