Difference Between Distance and Displacement

Distance vs Displacement

*Distance is the actual path covered and displacement is the shortest distance from the object to the point of origin.

Distance and displacement are two terms that may seem very common and similar to a lay man but a professor or student of physics will have a far greater meaning of these two terms. Distance and displacement will not only be two words from English vocabulary for them but these words will define them a whole new concept of physics. To someone distance and displacement might seem very alike but both have very different quantities and both are measured differently but they are related to each other.


Distance is the measure of area which is between two points which is the point of origin or the starting point and ending point of a location. Distance is the interval between two points connecting the path. Distance calculates each and every step that is covered by the object or person. With the help of an example, the concept of distance can be understood better. For example, you leave home and travel 5 meters north, take a left walk again 5 meters, again take a left and walk 5 meters and again take a left and walk 5 meters. You will end up at the same place but the distance you have actually travelled will be 20 meters.


Displacement is actually the distance a person is away from its actual point or the starting point. Or in other words, it is the distance between you and the starting point. Displacement tells you how far are you actually from the starting point. It can be understood better with the following example. If you have your note book in your bag and you leave home and walk 5 meters north and reach your school, then the displacement between you and you book will be 0 meters because you did not travel away from your notebook.

Difference between Distance and Displacement

Distance is the measure of how far you have travelled so far where as displacement tells you how far you are away from the starting point irrespective of the distance you have covered.

Displacement does not count the steps taken or the area covered while travelling, it just calculates the distance from the point you are and the point you originally started from. Whereas distance measures and calculates every area covered regardless of the fact that the area might be covered twice by the object, it just calculates the total area or path covered in total.

One of the most prominent differences between distance and displacement is that the distance covered between the two points is always greater or equal to the magnitude of displacement.

Distance is measured even in curves whereas displacement is in a straight line. Distance is the actual path covered and displacement is the shortest distance from the object to the point of origin.


Distance and displacement are two different yet related terminologies commonly used in physics. Distance and displacement is actually the path covered irrespective of the direction, it is just concerned with the quantity of the distance of the path covered.