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Distance and Displacement: Definition, Difference and Examples

Updated on 21 January 2021
study24x7
Class12NonMedical
7 min read 1 views
Updated on 21 January 2021

Distance and Displacement are two important topics covered in the Physics subject. Mostly, students are confused about both the terms. Well, talking about the distance and displacement definition, let’s take that up one by one. Distance in layman’s language is defined as the measurement of the objects based on how far they are. It is defined as the physical length between objects. The distance can be between objects, countries, faraway cities etc. 


For instance, the distance between India and London is 4,581.86 miles. It is a basic estimation of the length from initial to the final position between objects. Distance can also be called as the time interval between the objects.  


Distance formula: distance = speed X time.


Displacement is defined as the change in the position of the object. In terms of a geometrical figure, displacement is depicted in the form of an arrow to show the shift in the position. For instance, if an object’s position changes from point A to B, then this is termed as a displacement.


Now, you must be wondering, why is displacement used in physics? Displacement is used to represent the motion of an object and that is why it is needed. The difference is that a position is depicted by the displacement. 


Displacement formula: Velocity = Displacement / Time.



Students often wonder, what is the difference between distance and displacement class 9th? Well, distance is the physical length between the objects whereas displacement is the change in the position of an object. This change is represented by an arrow in the diagram. This similar topic is covered in class 9 so students can refer to these points to know more about this topic.


Displacement is the vector (also called velocity) quantity depicting how far the object is. Distance can only have a positive value. On the other hand, displacement can have negative or positive values. It can also be zero. Distance is denoted with letter ‘d’ and Displacement is denoted with letter ‘s’. This is the distance and displacement difference in a nutshell. 

   Difference between Distance and Displacement | Difference Between 


In the above diagram, displacement is depicted in the form of an arrow. Now, here one thing the students must notice i.e. displacement will always be shown through a straight path with the help of an arrow. On the other hand, distance is not always depicted as the one having a straight path. Distance can move in any direction but displacement cannot. This is the distance and displacement diagram showing the path dependence or the path taken. 


Now, let’s move to the distance and displacement examples. Let’s talk about distance first. For instance, a boy moves 2 metres East, 4 metres North, 5 metres West and 1 metre South. So the total distance covered will be 12 metres. Here, we have added all the four directions and given the final distance i.e. length covered from initial position to final position. Another example can be, a cycle covers 10 metres of distance north and moves to east and covers 12 metres distance. So, the final distance covered will be 22 metres. 


Now, let’s take up the displacement examples. For instance, a person moves from point A to point B covering 10 metres, so the displacement would be 10 metres as the change in the position is happening from point A to B.


Let’s take up the above – mentioned example i.e. a boy moves 2 metres East, 4 metres North, 5 metres West and 1 metres South. So the distance will be 12 metres. But the displacement will be zero (0) as the boy is moving in a zigzag path as shown in the above diagram. Since displacement can only be in a straight path or direction, therefore, the displacement will be zero in this case.   


Physics is one of the main subjects covered in Science. And distance and displacement are two important topics covered in the physics subject. Both are different in their approach. So, students must not be confused between the two. Now, how to distinguish between distance and displacement? Well, the answer is stated above. Both distance and displacement are different and it is also shown with the help of the diagram above. Thus, distance and displacement are two different terms and are calculated differently.


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How to study for Class 12 Non-Medical?


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