Difference Between Speed vs Velocity

Difference Between Speed vs Velocity

Today we finally settle the difference between speed and velocity for those who are confused about this often debated subject. When we dive into the definitions of each word, it’s soon going to become very apparent that they hold some key variables to help separate them. We’re also going to provide you with a reference table summarizing their differences at a quick glance to make the comparison easier.

Definition of Speed

The definition of speed is: “The amount of time it takes for one object or living thing to travel from one location to another in any direction.”

When we summarize speed vs velocity we’re comparing two very similar forces. The differences come into play when we look at how each metric or force is applied to an object or person.

When we talk about speed, we’re observing the space of time that elapses between an object moving from a starting location to an end destination in any direction. This is regardless of whether or not something or someone takes three seconds to move from one location to another or three minutes. The duration of that travel is always referred to as speed.

Interestingly, we can also measure velocity in seconds. What serves to help us form a summary of one from the other is the fact that direction plays an integral part in establishing velocity whereas direction has no bearing on speed or how we measure it.

Definition of Velocity

The definition of velocity is: “Velocity is the speed at which a body travels in one specific direction only.”

Immediately after reading the above definition, you’ve got an easy way to summarize precisely what sets velocity apart from speed due to the inclusion of direction. We still measure this force using seconds, but the all-important factor to consider is that a body must be moving in a specific direction here. With speed, it doesn’t matter what direction an object or person may be moving in. It could be forwards, backwards, diagonally, or any other directional variation.

What separates velocity vs speed, however, is the fact that we’re measuring the time it takes for something to move in one direction only. We can still measure time in regards to speed when it comes to determining how long it takes for an object to move from the starting to end position with velocity too, though.

What’s vital to comprehend in this scenario is that the main metric we’re concerned with is direction over time. We’re trying to understand how something can move from one precise location to another and measure its effectiveness in doing so.

When measuring speed elsewhere, we’re simply focusing on time elapsed for directional travel. The direction here is irrelevant though. We’re only concerned with the time in seconds or milliseconds that the object journey takes.

The reason why we’d use these two separate metrics is because non direction specific speed is very important within certain physical frameworks, whereas with others, speed is only important if it relates to one specific direction.

Main Differences Between Speed vs Velocity

We’ll now give you an easily understandable breakdown of the difference between velocity and speed with a reference table:

Basis of Comparison:VelocitySpeed
Measured in?Seconds, minutes, hoursSeconds, minutes, hours
Relates to?The time taken for a body to move in one specific directionThe time taken for a body to move in any direction
Directional involvement?Direction is integral to velocityDirection isn’t involved when measuring speed
Magnitude variety?Can be negative, neutral or positiveSpeed can only be measured progressively/positively
Quantity type?VectorScalar
Relationship with time?Displacement over timeDistance over time
Example?The car was travelling at 50mph and heading WestThe car was travelling at 50mph

Difference Between Speed and Velocity: Conclusion

Finally, you’ve got an impactful method to summarize how these two metrics vary from one another despite their initially similar natures. To help with your summary of the two words the only fact you really need to keep in mind is that velocity is direction specific and speed isn’t. This will always serve to help you remember their primary variation.