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Definition difference
The exact meaning of variance is subject to its context. For example:
  • "There is a huge variance in how people respond to the medication." — difference
  • "50% of the variance is explained by genetics." — amount of difference
  • "Her speech was at variance with her actions." — different than
  • "Her speech was at variance from others." — different from
  • "Their main points of variance..." — difference
  • "There is little variance in quality." — difference between similar things

Perhaps the most common specialized sense of variance refers to government permission to do something differently than is normally allowed. See a comprehensive dictionary for other specialized meanings of variance in statistics and accounting.
  • There is a huge variance in how people respond to the medication.
variance = difference
  • Wide price variances are common depending upon where you shop.
  • variances = differences
  • The candidates have core beliefs that are at wide variance with each other.
  • variance = difference
  • The study found that variance in working memory improves sight reading of music, but that hours of practice has over four times as much effect.
  • variance = difference
  • The variance depends a little on luck and a great deal on the extent of litigation.
    Truman Capote  --  In Cold Blood
  • The younger face was at variance with the music of its voice.
    T. H. White  --  The Once and Future King
  • For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
    Joseph Campbell  --  The Hero With a Thousand Faces
  • The motion of his body, too, was at variance with this idea—for he rocked from side to side with a gentle yet constant and uniform sway.
    Edgar Allan Poe  --  The Fall of the House of Usher
  • Bourne uses 'final protection,' a minor variance.
    Robert Ludlum  --  The Bourne Identity
  • It was a text which might seem to the casual observer at variance with the lofty morality elsewhere preached by Jesus Christ.
    James Joyce  --  Dubliners
  • What else could we do? he says in a caustic, cutting voice which surprises Sophie, so at variance does it seem with his previous milky equanimity.
    William Styron  --  Sophie's Choice
  • Nels's words were at variance with the meaning in his face.
    Zane Grey  --  The Light of Western Stars
  • He recalled the unwonted agitation of Captain Vere and his excited exclamations so at variance with his normal manner.
    Herman Melville  --  Billy Budd
  • Are you at variance with the Englishman?
    Alexandre Dumas  --  The Count of Monte Cristo
  • "You'll be decidedly at variance, all the same," he said in a moment.
    Henry James  --  The Portrait of a Lady - Volume 2
  • In a worldly view, he had nothing to gain by being on terms with Sir Walter; nothing to risk by a state of variance.
    Jane Austen  --  Persuasion
  • Tom Doan, riding with these silent, somber men, felt a strong beat of his pulse that was at variance with the oppression of his mind.
    Zane Grey  --  The Thundering Herd
  • He seen he wuz sick—everybody been knowin' dat for de last longest, and den Ah reckon he heard y'all wuz kind of at variance, so dat wuz his chance.
    Zora Neale Hurston  --  Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • She gave me her hand, and its deadly coldness, so at variance with the enforced composure of her features, deepened the fascination that overpowered me.
    Charles Dickens  --  Bleak House
  • With all domestic finesse of that kind he was hopelessly at variance.
    Thomas Hardy  --  The Mayor of Casterbridge

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