The Meaning of Disparity: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of disparity? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word disparity, including its definition, usage, etymology, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word disparity mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and Cambridge Dictionary, the noun disparity, pronounced dɪˈspærɪti, is a word that means some lack of equality or similarity. This is often used to describe things that are not fair, particularly when it comes to social or economic causes. For example, a politician might discuss the economic disparity or income disparity between two sides of the same city, or health disparities between the same two groups. Many times, racial disparities and ethic disparities are discussed as it relates to reparations and the social climate. In all of these cases, there is some disproportion or dissimilarity between two or more groups where there should not be. In these many examples of great disparity, the first step to reparations is acknowledgement. Try using this word of the day or other new words in a sentence today!

Many different languages also use words that mean disparity. You may find that some of these words look and sound similar to each other as well as to the word disparity. This is likely because these words are from a similar source or have the same origin. Often, cognates are found when words have the same root. This list of translations for the word disparity is provided by Word Sense.

  • French: disparité‎ (fem.)
  • Persian: نابرابری‎ (nâ-barâbari)
  • Dutch: ongelijkheid‎, onevenredigheid‎
  • Swedish: ojämlikhet‎
  • Portuguese: disparidade‎
  • Russian: нера́венство‎ (neut.), разли́чие‎ (neut.)
  • Finnish: eroavuus‎, erilaisuus‎
  • German: Differenz‎ (fem.), Unterschiedlichkeit‎ (fem.), Unterschied‎ (masc.), Disparität‎ (fem.), Ungleichheit‎ (fem.)
  • Bulgarian: разлика‎ (fem.), неравенство‎ (neut.)

What is the origin of the word disparity?

According to Etymonline, the word disparity has been used as a noun since the 1550s to mean the state of being different. It has been used to describe a quality of being unequal in rank since the 1590s. This word comes from the 16th century French disparité  which comes from the Medieval Latin disparitatem, which is the nominative disparitas meaning inequality.  Disparitas comes from the Latin dis meaning not and the root word paritās meaning parity. This stems from the Latin adjective par, the genitive paris, meaning equal. The plural of the word disparity is disparities, and related words include the adjective desparite. 

How can the word disparity be used in a sentence?

The word disparity can be used in many different ways to discuss wide differences between two groups, particularly in a way that creates inequality or a lack of fairness. In this first example, Geneva is frustrated with her teacher about his preferential treatment of athletes. She confronts him about it. 

Geneva: Mr. McMillan, I think it’s high time we discuss the disparity between the way you treat athletes and the way you treat your other students.

Mr. McMillan: Geneva, you’re being ridiculous. I treat all of my students exactly the same.

Geneva: That simply isn’t true. You’re always giving athletes extensions on papers and assignments while other people are left to struggle.

Mr. McMillan: Athletes are busy, Geneva.

Geneva: So are we all. Last week, you gave Dustin an extra week on his paper because of playoffs. But Jessie works after school to support her family, and Holden has choir rehearsal, and I have mock trial every day after school, and we are all still expected to get our work in on time. Either be flexible with all of us or none of us.

Mr: McMillan: I don’t want to hear it. Take it up with the administration. 

Here, Geneva uses the word disparity to discuss the unfair difference between how her teacher treats his students who are athletes and his students who are not athletes. He allows the athletes extensions while all other students with extracurricular activities are expected to turn their work in on time. This is one of many disparities that people could be working to fight. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word disparity?

There are a plethora of different words that can be used in place of the word disparity. These are known as synonyms which are words and phrases that have a similar or identical meaning to another word or phrase. Synonyms are very useful to know if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself or if you are looking to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word disparity is provided by Thesaurus.

  •  separateness
  • discrepancy
  • characteristic
  • variety
  • alteration
  • unevenness
  • separation
  • irregularity
  • nonconformity
  • exception
  • dissimilarity
  • distinction
  • singularity
  • contrariness
  • antithesis
  • digression
  • anomaly
  • diversity
  • imparity
  • unlikeness
  • variation
  • unorthodoxness
  • inequality
  • incongruity
  • alterity
  • gap
  • opposition
  • deviation
  • peculiarity
  • difference
  • particularity
  • idiosyncrasy
  • heterogeneity
  • imbalance
  • divergency
  • divergence
  • departure
  • contrast
  • diverseness
  • disproportion
  • asymmetry
  • dissemblance
  • discongruity
  • aberration
  • change
  • dissimilitude
  • unconformity
  • variance
  • otherness
  • contrariety

There are also numerous different words and phrases that mean the opposite of the word disparity. These are known as antonyms, and are also very useful when seeking to expand your vocabulary of knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms for the word disparity is also provided by Thesaurus

  • parallelism
  • equatability
  • equilibrium
  • balance
  • correspondence
  • sameness
  • equipoise
  • equivalence
  • impartiality
  • identity
  • fairness
  • fair shake
  • coordination
  • similarity
  • fair play
  • isonomy
  • commensurateness
  • fair practice
  • par
  • adequation
  • civil rights
  • equal opportunity
  • uniformity
  • egalitarianism
  • tolerance
  • equality
  • evenness
  • likeness
  • parity
  • homology

Overall, the word disparity is a noun that refers to a difference between two or more groups, often in a way that is not fair. This is often used with regard to policy making, government, social justice, and public health, in which officials may discuss ethnic disparities, health care disparities, or other wide disparity between groups.