Difference Between Distance and Displacement (With Table)

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 main 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.

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 Between Distance and Displacement (in Tabular Form)

Parameters of Comparison




Calculation of the space two actual points

Calculation of space two minimum points


speed and time

velocity and time

Quantity (link)




Never decreases

Decreases with time


Complete information

No complete information



Positive, negative and zero


Not considered



Not indicated using an arrow

Indicated using an arrow


Can be measure don a non-straight path

It 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




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.



Though distance and displacement seem similar, they both have different qualities and serve to measurement differently, But yes, both distance and displacement are related to each other.

They are in simple terms are path taken irrespective of the directions. Both are merely concerned with the quality of the distance covered.

Both the units of measurement and dimensions of distance and displacement are the same. Also, both of them require a reference point to start the measurements. Taking a small quiz may be useful for encapsulating the learning about distance and displacement.

Both, distance and displacement have a reference point and unit of length to do the measurement. The distance helps in getting a full picture of the type and path followed to calculate wherein the time increases with the speed that the distance gets covered.

Hence accuracy may be better found. But displacement is best understood if one needs to look into a portion of the distance that was to be covered



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