Difference Between Distance and Displacement

Difference between distance and displacement is one of the most commonly asked and confusing equations in the subject of physics. Also, equations like differentiating between distance and displacement are very common in the exams. Here this article gives information about the main key difference between distance and displacement to better understand this topic.

Definition of Distance:

Distance is a word that derives the Latin word called "distanceia" which means being far away, Distance is a magnitude that measures the proximity relationship between two things, objects, bodies, etc. It can also be considered as the length that traveled by an object from one point to another. 

Definition of Displacement: 

Displacement is considered a vector magnitude and we can describe it as the variation of the position of a body. The displacement focuses on the length of the path of an object the exists considering an initial point and another endpoint. It can be said that the result is a straight line between these two points. 

Difference between distance and displacement are listed below:

  • Distance is denoted by d, While displacement is denoted by s.
  • The complete length of the path between any two-point is called the distance, while the displacement is the direct length between any two points when measured along with the minimum path between them.
  • The distance can only have a positive value, displacement can be positive, negative, and even zero.
  • Distance is a scalar quantity as it only depends upon the magnitude and not the direction, displacement is a vector quantity as depends upon both magnitude and direction.
  • The calculated distance, the direction is not considered in distance, while the calculated displacement, the direction is taken into consideration.
  • The distance is calculated by speed *time while the formula of displacement calculates by velocity*time.
  • Distance is the gives the detailed route information that is followed while traveling from one point to another, As the displacement refers to the short path, it does not give complete information of the route. 
  • Both are measured in meter(m).
  • The distance can be measured along a non-straight path, displacement can only be measured along a straight path.
  • Distance is not indicated with an arrow, displacement is always indicated with an arrow.
  • Distance depends upon the path, displacement does not depend upon the path and it only depends upon the initial and final position of the body.
  • Distance always covered whenever there is a motion, displacement will be zero if the body comes back to its initial position.
  • The total distance covered is equal to the algebraic sum of all the distance traveled in a different direction, the net displacement is the vector sum of the individual displacement in a different direction.
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