# What is the Difference Between Distance and Displacement?

Distance and displacement are two words which seem to have the same meaning. However, their in-depth definition differs from each other to a large extent. While displacement yields the shortest distance between two points, distance refers to the space between them. We explain to you the difference between distance and displacement, along with their formula, in this ScienceStruck article.

ScienceStruck Staff

Did You Know?

Scalar refers to any quantity that can be defined by its magnitude only, and vector refers to any quantity that can be defined by both, magnitude and direction. Distance is considered to be a scalar quantity, while displacement is considered to be a vector quantity.

Distance Vs. Displacement

Distance

❏ The total length of a path covered is called distance.

❏ The value for distance can never be negative.

❏ The total path traveled by an object determines the total distance covered.

❏ It can either be equal to the value of displacement or greater than it.

❏ It can happen in any direction.

❏ The equation for calculation of distance is:

❏ The value for distance can never be negative.

❏ The total path traveled by an object determines the total distance covered.

❏ It can either be equal to the value of displacement or greater than it.

❏ It can happen in any direction.

❏ The equation for calculation of distance is:

**Distance covered by an object = Sum of lengths of all the paths covered**

Displacement

❏ The direct distance between two points is called displacement.

❏ The value for displacement can be negative or positive.

❏ The total distance determines how far the object has traveled from its original location.

❏ It is always less than the distance covered by an object under consideration.

❏ It always happens in a specific direction.

❏ The equation for calculation of displacement is:

❏ The value for displacement can be negative or positive.

❏ The total distance determines how far the object has traveled from its original location.

❏ It is always less than the distance covered by an object under consideration.

❏ It always happens in a specific direction.

❏ The equation for calculation of displacement is:

**Displacement of an object = Difference between the distance of final and initial point**

**Δx = x**

_{f}- x_{i}Concept Explained with Examples

Problem I:

A boy goes for an evening walk. He walks from point L to M, towards the west for 1 mile. He continues to walk from M to N (1 mile towards the north), and then N to O (1 mile towards the east). Now he decides to come back to the place where he had started his walk. Thus, he covers a distance of 1 mile to reach back to the point L. Calculate the distance and the displacement.

fig. 'A' indicates that the boy is in the initial position, which is point L.

**Solution:**

fig. 'A' indicates that the boy is in the initial position, which is point L.

Distance covered by the boy = Total sum of lengths of all the paths (LM + MN + NO + OL)

Distance covered by the boy = 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 4 miles

Displacement of the boy = 0; Boy started from point L and reached back to the same point in the end. This implies that the displacement is zero.

Problem II:

A girl starts jogging from a point P to point T. The path followed by her is L➜M➜N➜O➜P. Distance between L➜M, M➜N, N➜O, O➜P, P➜L is 1, 1, 1, 2, and 2 respectively. Calculate the distance and displacement.

The diagram above represents the girl standing at the initial position before displacement.

**Solution**:The diagram above represents the girl standing at the initial position before displacement.

Distance covered by the girl = Total sum of lengths of all the paths (LM + MN + NO + OP)

Distance covered by the girl = 1 + 1 + 1+ 2 = 5 miles

Displacement of the girl = 2; Girl started jogging from point L and stopped at point P. This implies that the displacement is the shortest distance between L and P.

Graph of Distance Vs. Displacement