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What's the difference between speed and velocity?

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azzyj | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted November 23, 2011 at 2:41 AM via web

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What's the difference between speed and velocity?

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embizze | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 7, 2014 at 8:21 PM (Answer #1)

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The short answer is that velocity is the speed with a direction, while speed does not have a direction.

Speed is a scalar quantity -- it is the magnitude of the velocity. Speed is measured in units of distance divided by time, e.g. miles per hour, feet per second, meters per second, etc....

Velocity is a vector quantity -- when giving the velocity we must specify the magnitude (the speed) and the direction of travel. For example you might drive 100km/hr (the speed) in a northerly direction.

This is analogous to the difference between distance (a scalar quantity) and displacement (the distance with direction.)


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sid-sarfraz | Student, Graduate | (Level 2) Salutatorian

Posted December 14, 2014 at 6:45 AM (Answer #8)

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Speed is the distance traveled or the rate of change of distance. It is a scalar quantity.

Can be expressed in terms of;

  • meters/second
  • km/hour


Velocity includes speed and direction both. It can be defined as the speed in a particular direction or distance traveled by an object in a specific direction per unit time. Where as, acceleration is the rate of speed on which the object travels.

Basically velocity is a vector quantity and is specified in m/s (meters/second).

Equation is;

Velocity = Change in distance / Time traveled


  • Speed is the distance traveled by an object where as, velocity is distance traveled by an object per unit time in a particular direction.
  • Speed is a scalar quantity where as velocity is a vector quantity.
  • Speed can be expressed in terms of meter/second and km/hour where as, velocity is expressed in terms of meters/ second.
  • Velocity can be calculated by;

velocity = change in distance/time taken

Speed can be calculated by;

speed = distance traveled /time taken

  • Speed just includes speed or distance traveled ignoring direction where as, velocity is the distance traveled in a particular direction

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 23, 2011 at 3:13 AM (Answer #1)

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This is a great question and I can see your confusion. There are similarities, but there are also differences. I will give you a definition of each and then provide an example.

Speed refers to how fast an object is moving. It is calculated by the displacement of space per a unit of time.

Velocity refer to the rate at which an object changes position in a certain direction. It is calculated by the displacement of space per a unit of time in a certain direction.

These definition might sound the same, but there is a crucial difference. It deals with direction. Velocity deals with direction and speed does not. Let me give you an example.

If you were driving at 50 miles per hour to get to a store, you would say that your speed is 50 miles per hours. If you were driving in a circle and ended at the same place, you would say that your velocity is zero, because there was no directional gain. The key to remember is that velocity is a vector, which means there is a directional component.





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kashmirinnocence | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted November 27, 2011 at 1:36 PM (Answer #2)

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firstly u need to know what a VECTOR is

for sake of simlicity u may take vector as a measure that along with a specific magnitude(e.g,10 m) also carries a direction(e.g,right direction of a specific point)

NOW ,VELOCITY is a vector quantity. you may already know what speed is (distance travelled per unit time) now just add a specific direction to it AND U GET VELOCITY


AS per ur current standard these terms may and actually can be quite same but as u advance u shall be able to appreciate how different they can be

e,g i may tell u that a moving body may have NEGATIVE velocity but it cant have negative speed!

if feel intrigued by this  u will surely enjoy newtonian physics in higher classes

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thewanderlust878 | Student, College Freshman | TA | (Level 3) Salutatorian

Posted April 7, 2014 at 10:10 PM (Answer #2)

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Though they both seem to be similar on the surface, they actually are quite different from each other. Speed is essentially the rate of change of a particular object. The equation is:

distance traveled/time of travel

Velocity is basically speed, but it has a direction. the equation for Velocity is:

Position/time = displacement/time


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malkaam | Student, Undergraduate | TA | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted December 14, 2014 at 5:36 AM (Answer #7)

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Speed is defined as

"distance traveled per unit time"


Speed = Total distance covered (m)/Total time taken (s)

Speed is a scalar quantity, and a scalar quantity has magnitude but no direction.

Velocity can be defined as

speed in a given direction.

Velocity = Displacement/Time

It is a vector quantity that has both magnitude and direction. The corresponding vector quantity of speed is velocity.

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zumba96 | Student, Grade 11 | TA | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted April 29, 2014 at 4:34 AM (Answer #3)

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This is one of the essential differences between speed and velocity.Speed is a scalar quantity and does not keep track of direction; velocity is a vector quantity and is direction aware. 

speed = distance/time.

velocity = displacement/time.


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nav1996 | Student | (Level 1) Honors

Posted July 20, 2014 at 4:14 AM (Answer #4)

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The speed of an object is defined as the distance it has traveled divided by the amount of time elapsed. The velocity of the object is similar to speed but has one main difference: velocity takes into account the direction of an object. 

Since speed does not take direction into consideration, it is considered to be a scalar quantity. Thus, the speed of an object can never be negative. 

On the other hand, the velocity of an object does take into account direction, thus making it a vector quantity. This makes it so that there is always a direction attached to the speed. This direction can be noted in many different ways. For example, one can say that a car has a velocity of 20 m/s at an angle of 45 degrees. This way, the direction is specified as 45 degrees. 

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ayl0124 | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted August 12, 2014 at 9:36 PM (Answer #5)

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Both are measured by distance over time (eg. m/s). However, while velocity has a direction (depicted through + or - symbols), speed does not.

If "A" moves to the left 3 meters in 1 second, A's speed would simply be 3 m/s. A's velocity, on the other hand, would be -3 m/s because left is considered negative. 

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strwbrry16 | Student, Grade 5 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Answer #6)

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Speed, being a scalar quantity, is the rate at which an object covers distance. The average speed is the distance (a scalar quantity) per time ratio. Speed is ignorant of direction. On the other hand, velocity is a vector quantity; it is direction-aware.

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