Difference Between Distance and Displacement

Distance and Displacement are used to measure the distance travelled. Both the quantities seem to mean the same thing, yet they have differences in their meaning and definition.

So, let’s discuss the definition and meaning of these two terminologies. And what is the difference between them?

Index

What is Distance?

Distance is a Scalar Quantity that refers to the distance travelled by a body from the initial point to the final point.

What is Displacement?

Displacement is a Vector Quantity that refers to its path from a specific point (say Origin) to a destination point.

We can also define displacement as the shortest path travelled to reach destination.

Solved Examples

Question 1. Find the distance traveled if the object moves from $$A \rightarrow B \rightarrow C \rightarrow D \Rightarrow A$$. Also, find the displacement of the body.
AD = 10 cm & AB = 2 cm.

Solution. Distance Traveled = AB + BC + CD + DA

So, Distance Traveled = 2 + 10 + 2 + 10 = 24 cm.

Therefore, the distance travelled will be 24 cm. Displacement will be zero as the starting and ending point are the same.

Question 2. Find the distance travelled and the displacement of the body; if it moves from $$A \rightarrow B \rightarrow C$$.
AD = 12 cm & AB = 9 cm.

Solution. Distance Traveled = AB +AC = 9 + 12 = 21 cm.

So, Distance Traveled = 9 + 12 = 21 cm.

Displacement = AC (or) $$\sqrt{AB^2 + BC^2}$$ (By Pythagorean Theorem)

Displacement = $$\sqrt{9^2 + 12^2}$$

= $$\sqrt{81 + 144}$$

= $$\sqrt{225}$$ = 15 cm.

Therefore, the distance travelled is 21 cm and the displacement is 15 cm.

FAQs

What is distance?

Distance is the length of the path taken between the initial and the final position of a moving object in the given time interval.

What is displacement?

Displacement is the shortest path between the initial and final positions.

Can displacement be zero?

Yes, displacement can be zero, but the distance may or may not be zero.

Is Distance a vector?

Distance is a Scalar quantity and displacement is a vector quantity.

What is the difference between distance and displacement?

The main major difference is that distance is the complete length of the path taken whereas displacement is the shortest path.

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