Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Unlike in form, quality, amount, or nature; dissimilar.
  • adjective Distinct or separate.
  • adjective Various or assorted.
  • adjective Differing from all others; unusual.
  • adverb In a different way or manner; otherwise.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Not the same; two; many; plural; also, characterized by a difference or distinction; various or contrary in nature, form, or quality; unlike; dissimilar.
  • [When in the predicate, different is either used absolutely: as, the two things are very different; or followed by from: as, the two things are very different from each other; he is very different from his brother. But the relation of opposition is often lost in that of mere comparison, leading to the use of to instead of from. This use is regarded as colloquial or incorrect, and is generally avoided by careful writers.
  • Synonyms Different, Distinct, Separate, Several. These words agree in being the opposite of same. Different applies to nature or quality as well as to state of being: as, the African and Asiatic climates are very different. The other three words are primarily physical, and are still affected by that fact: we speak of distinct or separate, ideas, colors, sounds, etc. Several is used chiefly of those things which are in some sense together without merging their identity: as, three several bands.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Distinct; separate; not the same; other.
  • adjective Of various or contrary nature, form, or quality; partially or totally unlike; dissimilar

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Not the same; exhibiting a difference
  • adjective Various, assorted, diverse.
  • adjective Distinct, separate; used for emphasis after numbers and other determiners of quantity.
  • adjective Unlike most others; unusual.
  • noun mathematics The different ideal.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective unlike in nature or quality or form or degree
  • adjective marked by dissimilarity
  • adjective distinctly separate from the first
  • adjective differing from all others; not ordinary
  • adjective distinct or separate

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin differēns, different-, present participle of differre, to differ; see differ.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English, from Latin differēns, present active participle of differō ("I differ"); see differ.

Examples

Comments

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  • A quick poll: which of the following do you use?

    - "different from"

    - "different than"

    - "different to"

    November 6, 2008

  • I ask because I'm considering switching my personal usage from "different from" to "different than", in order to allow constructions such as "The situation is different than it used to be." (The equivalent construction using "from" is "The situation is different from how it used to be", which sounds clumsy.)

    I'm especially interested in "different to", which I never hear in the US, but which presents itself as a tantalizing third option. How would "to" fit into the above example?

    November 6, 2008

  • From for me; I tend to associate than with degrees of comparison, hence a narrower sense than difference generally construed.

    November 6, 2008

  • 'The situation is different than it used to be' looks passing ugly to me, and verging on meaninglessness. Different seems more an adjective (positive) rather a comparative which is where I think the difficulty creeps in. How can one compare 'the situation' to 'it used to be'? The problem is that different has the air of a comparative.

    Consider these examples:

    'A sionnach is different to a bicycle.'

    'A sionnach is different from a bicycle.'

    'A sionnach is different than a bicycle.' *hork*

    Now put a genuine comparative (eg. faster, cheaper, more fun, sillier, etc.) in the place of different and see what happens.

    'A sionnach is faster to a bicycle.' *hork*

    'A sionnach is faster from a bicycle.' *hork*

    'A sionnach is faster than a bicycle.'

    The approach of considering different an adjective is vexed, however, because it can perform awkwardly. eg.

    Rumpelstiltskin is funny.

    Rumpelstiltskin is different. *hork*

    You could also go back to the verbal form and see what that tells us:

    'Frogs differ from zombies.'

    'Frogs differ to zombies.'

    'Frogs differ than zombies.' *hork*

    With to, I would say 'different to what it used to be'.

    November 6, 2008

  • I'll never forgot how my stepson used to pronounce the word "different" (he was about 4 years old): drinfent. It took many tries, but he finally got it.

    Me: "Say it slowly, diff-er-ent."

    Him: "Diff-er-ent....drinfent!"

    November 6, 2008

  • Different from! From! Argh!

    November 6, 2008

  • The real sin here was not listing this on Word-Offs, ptero. 50 points have been deducted.

    November 6, 2008

  • That sounds like my cousin learning to say cordial, elgiad.

    He would repeat each syllable after his mother perfectly, but when the time came to say the whole word it was always cordigal.

    November 6, 2008

  • Cordigal! Must be an Australian foible *blushes*

    November 6, 2008

  • Adjectives that are comparative in form can take a special kind of clause complement, the comparative clause:

    This crossword is easier than it used to be.

    This bicycle is faster than it used to be.

    'Different' is semantically parallel, though not formally comparative, so it is natural by analogy to use it with comparative clauses:

    ?This situation is different than it used to be.

    I use that, though I'm more likely to phrase it with 'to'/'from' and a noun phrase (namely a fused relative, a clause attached to a wh-word):

    This situation is different to/from what it used to be.

    Analogy doesn't always work, because while both 'to' and 'from' are acceptable with the adjective, the verb only takes 'from'.

    *This one differs to that.

    This is all modulo dialect differences: 'different than ' is not grammatical in my (standard BrE) and similar dialects. And apparently some speakers don't have 'different to', according to pterodactyl.

    November 6, 2008