1. Being unlike something else, or unlike other people, in some way. The marking of difference constitutes identity—especially in relation to gender, ethnicity, class, and age. In some contexts, an emphasis on the differences between one group and another may be criticized for overlooking what they have in common and for perpetuating essentialist stereotypes. In identity politics, on the other hand, some may celebrate a shared difference through strategic essentialism. See also otherness; compare alterity.
2. (relational meaning) For Saussure (différence), a sign signifies in relation to how it is distinguished from others (see also relational model). This notion is reflected in brand positioning, but it can also be applied to human identity—our sense of who we are depends partly on what we are not: compare différance.
3. A comparative judgement as to whether the differences between two groups are greater than the differences within them or a typological judgement of whether differences between observed instances of some phenomenon are those of degree or of kind.