adj. & n.
1. a of, exhibiting, or depending on a difference. b varying according to circumstances.
2 Math. relating to infinitesimal differences.
3 constituting a specific difference; distinctive; relating to specific differences (differential diagnosis).
4 Physics & Mech. concerning the difference of two or more motions, pressures, etc.
1. a difference between individuals or examples of the same kind.
2 Brit. a difference in wage or salary between industries or categories of employees in the same industry.
3 a difference between rates of interest etc.
4 Math. a an infinitesimal difference between successive values of a variable. b a function expressing this as a rate of change with respect to another variable.
5 (in full differential gear) a gear allowing a vehicle's driven wheels to revolve at different speeds in cornering.
Phrases and idioms:
differential calculus Math. a method of calculating rates of change, maximum or minimum values, etc. (cf. INTEGRAL). differential coefficient Math. DERIVATIVE. differential equation Math. an equation involving differentials among its quantities.
Etymology: med. & mod.L differentialis (as DIFFERENCE)