12 Difference Between Distance And Displacement: Difference (With Similarities)

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What Is Distance?

Distance is the total movement of an object without any regard to direction. We can also describe distance as to how much ground an object has covered despite its starting or ending point.

What Is Displacement?

Displacement can be described as the change in position of an object. It is a vector quantity and has a direction and magnitude. It is represented as an arrow that point from the starting point to the final position.

Both distance and displacement requires a reference point to be measured from. They are measured in unit of lengths (centimeters, meters and kilometers). They also are equal to each other if the motion of the object is in straight line and in a single direction too.

Key Difference

  1. The distance of an object can be described as the complete path travelled by an object. For example, if a car travels east for 5km and then takes a turn to the west for another 15 km, the total distance travelled by the car will be 20km. On the other hand, the displacement of an object can be described as the overall motion of the object or the minimum distance between the starting point of the object and the final position of the object. For example, if a car travels east for 5km and then takes a turn to the west for another 15 km, the displacement will be the length of the line joining the two positions.
  2. Distance is a scalar quantity, which means the distance of any object does not depend on the direction of its motion. Displacement is a vector quantity, which means that the displacement of an object depends on the direction of the motion of object.
  3. The displacement in any interval of time may be positive or negative whereas distance cannot be negative.
  4. Distance traveled by a body in a given time can never be zero but, displacement can have zero value.
  5. The distance traveled by the object between two positions gives complete information about the type of the path followed by the object. However, displacement of the object does not give proper information about the type of path followed by the object.
  6. Distance=Speed x Time whereas Displacement=Velocity x Time.
  7. Distance always increases with time however displacement decreases with time.
  8. The value of the distance covered by a body is always greater than or equal to the displacement value.
  9. Displacement is always indicated with an arrow, which is not the case with distance.
  10. Distance can be measured along a non-straight path whereas displacement can only be measured along a straight path.
  11. Distance    depends upon the path i.e it changes according to the path taken. On the other hand, displacement does not depend upon the path; it only depends upon the initial and final position of the object.
  12. To calculate distance, direction is not considered. To calculate displacement direction is taken into consideration.

Also Read: Difference Between Speed And Velocity

Distance Vs. Displacement In Tabular Form

BASIS OF COMPARISON DISTANCE DISPLACEMENT
Description The distance of an object can be described as the complete path travelled by an object. The displacement of an object can be described as the overall motion of the object or the minimum distance between the starting point of the object and the final position of the object.
Magnitude Distance is a scalar quantity, which means the distance of any object does not depend on the direction of its motion. Displacement is a vector quantity, which means that the displacement of an object depends on the direction of the motion of object.
Values Distance cannot be negative.   The displacement in any interval of time may be positive or negative.
Values Distance traveled by a body in a given time can never be zero.   Displacement can have zero value.
Giving Of Information Of Path Followed The distance traveled by the object between two positions gives complete information about the type of the path followed by the object.   Displacement of the object does not give proper information about the type of path followed by the object.
Formula Distance=Speed x Time.       Displacement=Velocity x Time
Effect Of Time Distance always increases with time.   Displacement decreases with time.  
Value Of Distance Covered Vs Value of Displacement Covered The value of the distance covered by a body is always greater than or equal to the displacement value.   The value of the displacement covered by a body is always less to the distance value.  
Arrow Distance is not indicated with an arrow.   Displacement is always indicated with an arrow.
Measurement Distance can be measured along a non-straight path.   Displacement can only be measured along a straight path.  
Dependence On Path Distance    depends upon the path i.e it changes according to the path taken. Displacement does not depend upon the path; it only depends upon the initial and final position of the object.  
Calculation To calculate distance, direction is not considered.   To calculate displacement direction is taken into consideration.
Example If a car travels east for 5km and then takes a turn to the west for another 15 km, the total distance travelled by the car will be 20km. If a car travels east for 5km and then takes a turn to the west for another 15 km, the displacement will be the length of the line joining the two positions.  

Similarities Between Distance And Displacement

  • The SI Units of displacement and distance are same I.e meters.
  • Both distance and displacement requires a reference point to be measured from.
  • The dimensions for both displacement and distance are same.
  • Both distance and displacement are equal to each other if the motion of the object is in straight line and in a single direction too.

Also Read: Difference Between Mass And Weight