Distance vs. Displacement

Difference Between distance and displacement?

Distance is a term that refers to the actual distance that you travel. Displacement is a term that refers to the shortest distance between two points. Although they appear to be very similar in meaning to the ordinary person, to a physics student or professor there is a great difference between them. Both of these terms represent a whole new concept of physics. Even though distance and displacement are related to each other they refer to different quantities and are measured in different ways.

What is distance?

Distance is the name given to the measurement of the space between the point of origin and the destination. It is the interval that exists between two points that are connected by a path. Every step that a person or object takes to travel this path is calculated in distance.

An example would help illustrate the definition of distance. Let’s suppose that you travel a path that has four turns. You travel 5 m before you reach each turn. Therefore from the time you leave the starting point until you come back to the same place, you will have traveled 20 m.

What is displacement?

Displacement refers to the distance one is from the starting point when they reach the destination. In the example provided for distance, there would be no displacement because in spite of the fact you have walked 20 m you are still in the same place that you were when you started. There is no distance between the starting point and the destination.

Summary

  1. Distance is a measure of how far you travel when you leave a point of origin and arrive at a destination. Displacement is a measure of how far you are from the point of origin when you reach the destination.
  2. Displacement does not consider the distance that you have to travel to arrive at the destination. It is just a measure of the distance between two points. Distance measures and calculates the measurement travelled even if you arrive at the same place that you started.
  3. Distance is always greater than displacement.
  4. Distance takes twists and turns into its measurement, but displacement is always measured in a straight line and is the shortest distance between two points.

Conclusion

Distance and displacement are two terms that are used in physics. Although they are related they are calculated differently and have different meanings. Distance is the actual measure of how far you travel, but displacement is the shortest distance between two points.