What is the Difference Between Comparing and Contrasting?

What is the Difference Between Comparing and Contrasting?

Sometimes, we tend to use a word without knowing exactly what it means. It may be because it is a familiar word. It may also be because it sounds right and appropriate. It can also be that we often find it in literature, and we think it must be a good word to use. Admittedly, English can be a confusing language. There are millions of words out there, and each of them has thousands of synonyms.

This is in addition to the fact that new terms are being formed daily. Even when a term has synonyms, its interpretation may not be entirely the same with its sibling words. One example of this is comparing and contrasting. They’re like a combo; they often go together whenever we talk about two things. However, what is the difference between comparing and contrasting? Do they mean the same? Are they even supposed to go together in sentences?

This article will look into the difference between comparing and contrasting by defining each word and providing a clear distinction between them through a comparison table. Hopefully, after reading it, you will be able to tell their differences and determine when it is appropriate to use them. Let’s start by defining the first word.

Definition of Comparing

What does the term “comparing” mean? Before we proceed with the definition of comparing, let’s first break down the term. Comparing is a verb in the present participle. This means that it expresses an action or occurrence, specifically a continuous action. The term begins with the root word “compare” and ends with a suffix “-ing.” Its root word, compare, is derived from the Latin words “com” and “par,” the first being defined as “with” and the latter meaning “equal.”

The word, then, developed to “comparare,” to the French word, “comparer,” and then finally, to compare. According to its etymology, comparing literally means to be equal. In other words, something (or someone) is being rated for its similarity to something (or someone) else. Another meaning of the term is to point out or classifying the similarities between them. Another definition is to have a specified relationship with another thing (or person) qualitatively.

Comparing is synonymous with many words. These include contrasting, likening, juxtaposing, correlating, and associating. This raises the following question. If the words in the equation are synonyms, how exactly are they dissimilar from each other? Let’s take a look at the characterization of contrasting.

Definition of Contrasting

How do we define the word “contrasting?” Let’s take a look at the form and origin of the term. Contrasting is also a verb in the present participle form. Like contrasting, it also refers to a continuous or recurring action. Its root word is contrast, followed by the suffix -ing. The root word contrast comes from the Latin words “contra” and “stare,” which mean “against” and “stand,” respectively.

The term, was further developed in Medieval Latin “contrastare,” and then in French “contraste,” and finally in 17th century English, “compare”. From this, we can deduce that the definition of contrasting is “standing against.” As a verb, its dictionary definition is comparing to highlight the unlikeness between things (or people). Another meaning of the term is having a striking variance. However, as an adjective, its context is clearly different.

It also has numerous synonyms. These include differing, conflicting, comparing, and differentiating. Once again, comparing is its synonym. In what area to they differ, then? The next section will look into their characterization by laying out the facts in a table.

Comparing vs Contrasting Comparison Table

The table with main differences below provides a much better picture of how the words are alike and dissimilar.

Basis of ComparisonComparingContrasting
Form of SpeechVerb (present participle)Verb (present participle) or adjective
Original word/sLatin words’ “com” and “par”Latin words’ “contra” and “stare”
MeaningBeing noted for its likenessComparing to highlight the difference
StructureCompare + suffix -ingContrast + suffix – ing
SynonymsContrasting, paralleling, juxtaposing, correlating, and equatingDiscording, conflicting, comparing, and differentiating

Conclusion of the Main Difference Between Comparing vs Contrasting

Looking at the table, you may notice that most of the synonyms of the former focus on the linkage and most of the synonyms of the latter focus on the disparity. The locus of the former is on similarity, and the latter, on difference. The difference between comparing vs contrasting lies in their area of interest. Therefore, if you’d like to focus on the similarity of two objects, use comparing. Or else, choose contrasting. If you’d like to know both, you can use both expressions together.                

Words can be confusing. However, we can also go back to their origins to determine how were formed and to understand better what they mean. Fortunately, we have the Internet to help us understand all of this. Just remember that, for any word that causes confusion, the key is to look inside.