Definition of variation in US English:



  • 1A change or difference in condition, amount, or level, typically with certain limits.

    ‘regional variations in house prices’
    ‘the figures showed marked variation from year to year’
    • ‘The guide, which sampled prices in more than 1,000 pubs throughout Britain, says it uncovered huge variations between different parts of the country, often for the same product.’
    • ‘But watch out, even within the European Union, there are variations in how this amount is calculated.’
    • ‘The total council tax bill for each parish in Swindon has now been revealed with massive variations in different areas of the town.’
    • ‘"Some sectors will thrive, but there will be huge variations within and between sectors, " he said.’
    • ‘CCI's report on local government financing found wide variations in the level of commercial rates paid by businesses around the country.’
    • ‘We hear different sounds because of variations in the sound wave frequency.’
    • ‘What can we make of the published figures which show such a wide variation in the amounts claimed by councillors?’
    • ‘There are clear variations within census regions as well.’
    • ‘Seasonal variations are slight, though wet and stormy conditions with strong westerlies occur from December to February.’
    • ‘The annual release of carbon from soil can vary significantly among years, and this difference is often attributed to interannual variations in climatic conditions.’
    • ‘We determined each player's weight loss by calculating the variation between body weight before and after each training day.’
    • ‘When these figures are examined at regional level there are large variations.’
    • ‘These national figures also hide wide variations within countries.’
    • ‘The survey found that differences of economic status were the main reasons for variations in the happiness level of elderly people.’
    • ‘Its rationale is that analysing patterns of care will help to reduce the variation in performance among doctors and lead to improvements in the quality of health care.’
    • ‘The organisation says there are wide regional variations in the amount parents will pay.’
    • ‘At the moment neither US nor Australian investors are expecting major market variations, so the amount of activity in the options market has declined.’
    • ‘Just as all human beings have the same kind of body, with minor variations, so we all have the same kind of mind.’
    • ‘Next, if the scientists are right, there will be greater climatic (therefore social and cultural) variations between the different parts of the UK.’
    • ‘We recorded variations in body weight weekly throughout the experimental period.’
    difference, dissimilarity, disparity, inequality, contrast, discrepancy, imbalance, dissimilitude, differential, distinction
    change, alteration, modification, varying, variety, variability, diversification
    deviation, variance, divergence, departure, fluctuation, tolerance
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    1. 1.1Astronomy A deviation of a celestial body from its mean orbit or motion.
      • ‘Abul Wafa determined accurately the obliquity of the ecliptic in 995 A.D. and calculated the variation in the moon's motion.’
      • ‘Because of the eccentricity of Mercury's orbit, the variation in the proper motion of the Sun would be noticeable to an observer on the planet.’
      • ‘In fact the major perturbation, producing about 99.99 percent of the variation in the lunar orbit, is due to the large attraction of the Sun.’
      • ‘There are three cyclic variations in the orbit, with periods of 23,000, 41,000, and 100,000 years.’
      • ‘Cooler summers at high latitudes result from a reduction in the amount of solar radiation falling on the surface, and this in turn depends upon both changes in the tilt of the Earth's axis and variations in its orbit about the Sun.’
    2. 1.2Mathematics A change in the value of a function due to small changes in the values of its argument or arguments.
      • ‘Unexpectedly, a great variety of shapes is obtained by a small variation in the basic function.’
      • ‘The variation about the expected values for total proportion infected and other parameters of interest must also be considered.’
      • ‘In the mass-conserving variation, modulo 3 arithmetic is more useful.’
      • ‘He also originated the concept of functions of bounded variation and is known especially for his definition of the length of a curve.’
      • ‘However, nothing is known about whether amplitude variations have any functional value in this species.’
    3. 1.3 The angular difference between true north and magnetic north at a particular place.
      • ‘He did publish on electricity and magnetism, the variation of magnetic declination with time as well as several publications on optics and astronomical topics.’
    4. 1.4Biology The occurrence of an organism in more than one distinct color or form.
      • ‘Mutation is the primary source of genetic variation upon which natural selection can act.’
      • ‘Darwin found the perfect vehicle for his purpose in the supposed evolution of species by chance variation and natural selection.’
      • ‘Even if not every mutation leads to a new evolutionary pathway, the flies are a vivid example of one way mutation can provide variation for natural selection to work on.’
      • ‘An action of the environment on the organism to produce selectable and inheritable variation would solve a number of problems for Darwin.’
      • ‘There are many sources of inheritable variation in biology.’
  • 2A different or distinct form or version of something.

    ‘hurling is an Irish variation of field hockey’
    • ‘Check your documentation carefully, as Barclaycard is testing several different variations of the ‘0% for life’ offer.’
    • ‘The name caused a lot of bemusement, but over the course of his life Dryfess obligingly chose to respond to several different variations of it.’
    • ‘Greg and Pete had been having a variation of this argument for almost half an hour now, and Kobi was rapidly becoming quite bored.’
    • ‘The French influence, most apparent in early examples such as Cologne Cathedral, gradually gave way to more distinctively local variations, as in the cathedrals of Ulm and Freiburg.’
    • ‘There have been a number of wedding comedies of late, which tend to be variations on the theme of ghastly relatives, misbehaviour at the reception and pre-nuptial disasters.’
    • ‘However, faced with the disruption we have tried three different route variations to get around the roadworks and to keep the buses running on time.’
    • ‘Over the course of a year, Milgram carried out 19 different experiments, each one a different variation of the basic paradigm.’
    • ‘With the different variations of UNIX and Linux available, we would require a large number of servers in-house if we did support using traditional methods.’
    • ‘The Welsh language, as with others, has regional variations, within five miles you can have a different lilt altogether.’
    • ‘But there probably are many different variations of asthma that have to do with genetics.’
    • ‘What's worse is that often a whole slew of them are just duplicates or slight variations of the same piece of unsolicited garbage sent from different addresses.’
    • ‘Even within this strain, variations are seen, and slightly different strains are being seen in the countries affected in this outbreak.’
    • ‘This is a variation on the old argument that women are some sort of civilizing force, and that is why we should be more active in world affairs.’
    • ‘For example, Pentium II was released in 18 different variations, including mobile versions.’
    • ‘Recently a flutter of books have been published in America which advance different variations of this thesis.’
    • ‘The first day of class I arrived at the studio room, and found a young man at a drawing table, sketching out different variations of the Walkman ® he was designing.’
    • ‘Whereas the radio show, TV show, books and computer game are all recognisably variations on a theme, this is something new and almost entirely unrelated.’
    • ‘This exhibition documents the regional and chronological specificity of dress styles, as well as the multiplicity of variations within a single type.’
    • ‘All three drugs are variations on the same theme - they are known as PDE5 inhibitors - but with different side effects.’
    • ‘Although different cultures produced distinctive variations of an industrial revolution, the similarities are striking.’
    variant, form, alternative, alternative form, other form, different form, derived form, development, adaptation, alteration, modification, revision, revised version
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    1. 2.1Music A version of a theme, modified in melody, rhythm, harmony, or ornamentation, so as to present it in a new but still recognizable form.
      ‘there is an eleven-bar theme followed by seven variations and a coda’
      figurative ‘variations on the perennial theme of marital discord’
      • ‘Another foretaste of later Beethoven comes in the sixth movement, which is a set of variations on a courtly theme.’
      • ‘Three of the other orchestral musicians, Reicha and the Romberg brothers, wrote variations on the same aria, perhaps a playful challenge among the young men.’
      • ‘There are 51 of these variations for solo violin, composed in 1970 by the American George Rochberg.’
      • ‘It is universally acknowledged that Elgar originally wrote 17 variations on his Enigma theme.’
      • ‘Still, any score by such an important composer, even one that plays quirky variations on themes by Mozart, is worth hearing.’
      • ‘At the time Rachmaninov wrote, he competed with variations on the same theme by Liszt, Schumann, and Brahms.’
    2. 2.2Ballet A solo dance as part of a performance.
      • ‘When Svetlana performed her variation at the dress rehearsal, the whole troupe applauded.’
      • ‘My heart was beating as if I had just completed a difficult solo variation.’
      • ‘He choreographed the solo variations for the last act of a new production of Napoli, and his production of Coppélia proved to be enduringly popular.’
      • ‘I particularly enjoyed the solo variation in the second movement by Andrei Uvarov, which was intensely sad, delicate and surprisingly feminine for such a big man.’
      • ‘Adding a solo variation at the end is icing on the cake.’


Late Middle English (denoting variance or conflict): from Old French, or from Latin variatio(n-), from the verb variare (see vary).