Difference Between Distance and Displacement

Distance and displacement are defining components of physics. Distance talks about the length and time taken during motion during traveling between two points.

Whereas the displacement explains the shortest distance between two locations of distance that explains the farthest distance between two endpoints of the distance traveled.

Distance vs Displacement

The difference between distance and displacement is that the direction of the distance is not that important vis a vis for displacement. The direction of the distance is very important to be considered for calculating displacement.

Distance vs Displacement

Another point to understand about the key difference between distance and displacement is that the path interdependence of distance changes as per the path taken for distance and the path dependence is not important to calculate displacement.

Only the initial and final position of the particular part, body or source is important to consider displacement.


Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonDistanceDisplacement
MeaningCalculation of the space two actual pointsCalculation of space two minimum points
Formulaspeed and timevelocity and time
Quantity (link)ScalarVector
TimeNever decreasesDecreases with time
RouteComplete informationNo complete information
ValuePositivePositive, negative and zero
DirectionNot consideredConsidered
IndicationNot indicated using an arrowIndicated using an arrow
PathCan be measure don a non-straight pathIt cannot be measured on a not straight path.


What is Distance?

Distance calculates movements. Distance is measured in millimeter, centimeter, meter, and kilometer. Distance explains the total movements of a person, object or thing on the parameters of speed and time.

Distance measures how much of the area being traveled while an object is in motion taking into account only the magnitude through scalar measurement.

In short, distance gives in the value of the quantity of space between two points in their actual path in a given time frame only.  It can be said that distance shares the space between the start and endpoint of a path


What is Displacement?

Unlike distance that calculates movements, displacement defines the change of position of objects, person or a thing.

The change in position of an object or something in a specific direction between two linear points is called displacement. Displacement is measured by centimeter, meter, and kilometer.

Displacement uses vector measurement in the direction through understanding the magnitude. Considering the oscillations at a few encounters, displacement usually follows the equilibrium on a straight line

Example: A car travels from west to south direction for 5 km and they take an eastward direction for 10 km, the distance traveled is 15 km. This is the distance. Now, displacement is the point between the east, north and west point’s which were not traveled. The points or distance between the east and west are joined to calculate the displacement


Main Differences Between Distance and Displacement

Meaning and Quantity

 The distance can be said to be a complete path traveled by someone or a thing while displacement is the motion of that particular person or object in the selected points only. The selected points have a starting and a final point which is well defined.

Distance is a scalar quantity while displacement has vector quantity. As per scalar quantity the distance doesn’t rely on the direction of motion of an object. Vector quantity is the opposite. Vector quantity depends on the motion of the object.


Distance is measured in a line and hence has two endpoints. Distance is indicated with two side endpoints shown with an end pint or a full stop.  Displacement is shown through two arrows at the side of the part of the distance that is to be considered.




Displacement < ————- >

Time and Route

When one is traveling, the distance is measured in kilometers. As we move further, the distance increases and so does the time passed.

Displacement only refers to a part of the distance covered, calculated or traveled. Hence, it is correct to say that distance increases with time and displacement reduce with time.

The route of a line of journey or a plan is fixed or defined when measuring a distance. The displacement calculation is rested in the distance traveled.

Hence the route is predefined for distance calculation and the same is not the case with displacement.


Distance calculation rests heavily on the path taken. The path to tread may be chosen and predicted, but it is prone to alter and change. Hence, distance changes as her path taken.

Displacement considers only the initial and final points selected from the entire path that distance calculates.


Distance = Speed x Time

Displacement- Velocity x Time

Value and Direction

The value of the distance is understood is always greater than or equal to the value of the displacement. Hence, the value of displacement by default is lesser than of a distance calculation.

Similarly, for the calculation of distance, the direction is not considered while calculation and only the unit of measurement are used as a tool to measure distance.

While for the calculation of displacement, the direction is important to be considered as the director explains the velocity and time.

Difference Between Distance and Displacement


  1. https://www.osapublishing.org/abstract.cfm?uri=aop-4-4-441
  2. https://www.onepetro.org/journal-paper/PETSOC-04-02-02
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