Variety vs Diversity


Could you explain the difference between variety and diversity?

For example, people have quite different taste, OK. Which word can I use better for that?

diversity of taste?
diversities of taste?
variety of …?

(… of tastes ? :slight_smile: )

The person has a diversity of tastes, or a variety of tastes.

You’re getting into a loaded word here, Tamara, because diversity has taken on an array of new meanings. Twenty years ago it had the same meaning as variety, but now it is frequently used as a politically correct term for the inclusion of people who are not white, Christian or whatever is mainstream in a particular Western country. Sometimes it’s even absurdly used in situations where only one non-white ethnic group is “included”. For example, the children in some inner city schools in the United States may be 95 percent African-American, but their administrators tout the schools’ “diversity”. Meanwhile, a suburban school system that has many people of all races, religions and ethnicities may be pointed to as a “white” district and “not diverse”".

Diverse was a perfectly good word, but its misuse has started to embarrass many people.

“Variety” and “diversity” are virtually synonamous (-imous? omous? ).

I don’t think think “Diverse” has any negative conotations this side of the Atlantic.
Tamara, you should be better able to tell there in the UK.




Jamie, I understand that countable tastes.
The only case I (now) know where an uncountable noun is still used is the expression:
variety of fortune
(in the meaning ‘reversal of fortune’ or something like that).

Hi Tamara

Just a couple of added comments from me: :wink:

I’ve never heard the expression “variety of fortune” (reversal of fortune). Where do you know that from?

My feeling is that you’d most likely be able to use an uncountable or singlular noun with variety when it is preceded by “the” rather than “a” :

the variety of food
the variety of your diet
the variety of life
the variety of language
the variety of an evolving system

But, even with “the”, variety would usually be followed by a plural noun.

I also agree with Jamie about the usage of diversity. That word has also taken on some very distinct, new meanings in business,too. Companies nowadays may hire “diversity consultants” and/or diversity is a very big issue in the human resources department.


Hi Amy

Thank you for your uncountable input. ( :))

Perhaps you know, ‘Reversal of Fortune’ is a famous film

Do you also know the word ‘peripetia’?
In Russian ‘peripetias of fortune’ is used literally, but my online dictionary (it’s not the best, I know) gave me an expression with ‘variety’ as an acceptable equivalent. … of+fortune

I took it on trust. But now I’ve checked, you’re right, it’s not in use in English in that way.
Thank you, again.

Hi Tamara

I have no problem with “reversal of fortune.”
I’d just never heard “variety of fortune” – not even with the meaning “reversal of fortune”. :wink:


I wonder whether we could say that with “diversity”, we (on the whole) simply express the fact that there are differences; whereas with “variety”, we (on the whole) express an opinion that those differences are interesting or significant in some way.

Cf. the common saying: “variety is the spice of life”.


Hi Tamara,

One extra point that hints at the underlying meaning is the verb form: diversify. People are encouraged to diversify in their lives nowadays - take on/change to different careers rather than stay in the same kind of job all their working lives.


Thanks. I think, I understand, generally.

I’d have a problem to explain the difference between ‘разнообразие’ and ‘многообразие’ in my first language, Russian, if being asked.
Despite the fact, that I surely use them correct, in practice.

My today’s understanding (with your help):
Variety brings (mainly) the idea of a choice.
Diversity – (mainly) the idea of a difference (from ‘divert’?)

If it’s an acceptable ‘general rule’, thank you all! Quite difficult topic…

P.S. By the way, my dictionary (ABBYY Lingvo) gives one more meaning for diversify – to support/invest money in different areas, equally. Or something like that. With the note ‘American’ :slight_smile:
to diversify the economy

In my view (from what I heard in the UK), ‘diversity’ sometimes also has that underlying idea – equal opportunities.
Or maybe something is wrong with my ears…

Hi Tamara, I think “cultural diversity” is a big issue in the US too.[YSaerTTEW443543]

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