# Absolute vs. Total: What's the Difference?

Copy edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 6, 2023
“Absolute” refers to something independent, unconditional, and not relative, while “Total” refers to the whole amount or sum of all parts combined. Absolute can denote quality; Total denotes quantity.

## Key Differences

“Absolute” and “Total” are words that, while related to comprehensiveness, are used in distinct contexts and convey different meanings. “Absolute” typically refers to something that is unconditional, unrestricted, and not dependent on or relative to anything else. It is often used to describe concepts, principles, or values that are considered inherent and not subject to modification, limitation, or qualification. In contrast, “Total” is predominantly used to describe the aggregate, sum, or entirety of numerical values or quantifiable elements, emphasizing the whole amount or sum derived from adding individual parts or units.
The usage of “Absolute” is prevalent in discussions involving philosophy, mathematics, and moral values. For instance, in mathematics, an absolute value refers to the distance of a number from zero, irrespective of direction, representing a non-relative value. “Total,” however, is ubiquitous in contexts involving computations, accounting, and statistics, where it represents the cumulative amount or the summation of individual quantities, reflecting the overall quantifiable value or count.
Additionally, “Absolute” often implies a sense of perfection, completeness, and indisputability, expressing concepts or truths that are considered ultimate and unalterable. It can denote something that is inherent, intrinsic, and exists independently of external conditions or variations. On the other hand, “Total” strictly pertains to quantitative aggregation and does not imply intrinsic or inherent qualities. It merely reflects the cumulative result of adding individual numeric values, indicating the entire quantity or amount.
“Absolute” can also have implications of exclusivity and supremacy, suggesting something that is ultimate, supreme, or unparalleled. It can be used to convey the idea of something being free from any restrictions, conditions, or limitations, existing in a pure and unadulterated form. In contrast, “Total” lacks such connotations of supremacy or exclusivity and remains confined to expressing the complete numeric value or full extent of quantifiable elements without denoting superiority or purity.
While “Absolute” can express an inherent and unmodifiable quality or state, encompassing concepts like absolute truth or absolute zero, “Total” remains focused on conveying the entirety of numeric aggregation, such as total amount or total count. The use of “Absolute” tends to be more conceptual, qualitative, and inherent, while “Total” is more practical, quantitative, and aggregative.

## Comparison Chart

### Nature

Unconditional, inherent.
Cumulative, aggregative.

### Usage Context

Philosophy, moral values, mathematics.
Accounting, statistics, everyday language.

### Representational Focus

Quality, concept, principle, state.
Quantity, amount, sum, extent.

### Connotations

Perfection, completeness, exclusivity, supremacy.
Entirety, whole, full extent, complete.

### Modifications & Limitations

Exists independently, not subject to modifications.
Subject to addition of parts, modifiable.

## Absolute and Total Definitions

#### Absolute

Not qualified or diminished; total.
The trust he placed in her was absolute.

#### Total

Complete in degree; absolute.
The statement was a total fabrication.

#### Absolute

Existing independently of any other cause or condition.
The laws of physics are absolute.

#### Total

Involving all aspects or elements.
He made a total commitment to the project.

#### Absolute

Having unrestricted power; autocratic.
The king ruled with absolute authority.

#### Total

An amount obtained by addition; a sum.

#### Absolute

Unqualified in extent or degree; total
Absolute silence.

#### Total

The whole amount of something; the entirety
The storm damaged the total of the housing units.

#### Absolute

Not limited by restrictions or exceptions
An absolute right.

#### Total

Of, relating to, or constituting the whole amount; entire
The total population of the city.

#### Absolute

Being fully such; utter
An absolute fool.

#### Total

Complete; utter; absolute
Total concentration.
A total effort.
A total fool.

#### Absolute

Unconstrained by constitutional or other provisions
An absolute ruler.

#### Total

To determine the total of; add up
They totaled the applications at 600.

Not mixed; pure
Absolute oxygen.

#### Total

To equal a total of; amount to
The week's receipts totaled more than \$90,000.

#### Absolute

Not to be doubted or questioned; positive
Absolute proof.

#### Total

To wreck completely; demolish
The driver survived the crash but totaled the car.

#### Absolute

Of, relating to, or being a word, phrase, or construction that is isolated syntactically from the rest of a sentence, as the referee having finally arrived in The referee having finally arrived, the game began.

#### Total

It totals to \$25.

#### Absolute

Of, relating to, or being a transitive verb when its object is implied but not stated. For example, inspires in We have a teacher who inspires is an absolute verb.

#### Total

An amount obtained by the addition of smaller amounts.
A total of £145 was raised by the bring-and-buy stall.

#### Absolute

Of, relating to, or being an adjective or pronoun that stands alone when the noun it modifies is being implied but not stated. For example, in Theirs were the best, theirs is an absolute pronoun and best is an absolute adjective.

#### Total

Sum.
The total of 4, 5 and 6 is 15.

#### Absolute

Relating to measurements or units of measurement derived from fundamental units of length, mass, and time.

#### Total

Entire; relating to the whole of something.
The total book is rubbish from start to finish.
The total number of votes cast is 3,270.

#### Absolute

Relating to absolute temperature.

#### Total

(used as an intensifier) Complete; absolute.
He is a total failure.

#### Absolute

(Law) Complete and unconditional; final
An absolute divorce.

#### Total

(mathematics) (of a function) Defined on all possible inputs.
The Ackermann function is one of the simplest and earliest examples of a total computable function that is not primitive recursive.

#### Absolute

Something that is absolute.

#### Total

(transitive) To add up; to calculate the sum of.
When we totalled the takings, we always got a different figure.

#### Absolute

Something regarded as the ultimate and transcendent basis of all thought and being. Used with the.

#### Total

To equal a total of; to amount to.
That totals seven times so far.

#### Absolute

Something regarded as exceeding or transcending everything else to the point of being independent and unrelated.

#### Total

To demolish; to wreck completely. (from total loss)
Honey, I’m OK, but I’ve totaled the car.

#### Absolute

Free of restrictions, limitations, qualifications or conditions; unconditional.

#### Total

(intransitive) To amount to; to add up to.
It totals nearly a pound.

#### Absolute

Unrestricted by laws, a constitution, or parliamentary or judicial or other checks; (legally) unlimited in power, especially if despotic.

#### Total

Whole; not divided; entire; full; complete; absolute; as, a total departure from the evidence; a total loss.

#### Absolute

Free from imperfection, perfect, complete; especially, perfectly embodying a quality in its essential characteristics or to its highest degree.
Absolute purity, absolute liberty

#### Total

The whole; the whole sum or amount; as, these sums added make the grand total of five millions.

#### Absolute

Pure, free from mixture or adulteration; unmixed.
Absolute alcohol

#### Total

To bring to a total; also, to reach as a total; to amount to.

#### Absolute

Complete, utter, outright; unmitigated, not qualified or diminished in any way.
When caught, he told an absolute lie.
An absolute denial of all charges
You're an absolute genius!

#### Total

To determine the total of (a set of numbers); to add; - often used with up; as, to total up the bill.

#### Absolute

Positive, certain; unquestionable; not in doubt.

#### Total

To damage beyond repair; - used especially of vehicles damaged in an accident; as, he skid on an ice patch and totaled his Mercedes against a tree. From total loss.

#### Absolute

(archaic) Certain; free from doubt or uncertainty (e.g. a person, opinion or prediction).

The whole amount

#### Absolute

Fundamental, ultimate, intrinsic; not relative; independent of references or relations to other things or standards.
The doctrine that absolute knowledge of things is possible, an absolute principle
Absolute rights and duties are such as pertain to man in a state of nature as contradistinguished from relative rights and duties, or such as pertain to him in his social relations.

#### Absolute

(physics) Independent of arbitrary units of measurement, standards, or properties; not comparative or relative.
Absolute velocity, absolute motion, absolute position

#### Total

Add up in number or quantity;
The bills amounted to \$2,000
The bill came to \$2,000

#### Absolute

Having reference to or derived in the simplest manner from the fundamental units of mass, time, and length.

#### Total

Determine the sum of;
Add all the people in this town to those of the neighboring town

#### Absolute

Relating to the absolute temperature scale (based on absolute zero); kelvin.

#### Total

Constituting the full quantity or extent; complete;
An entire town devastated by an earthquake
Gave full attention
A total failure

#### Absolute

(grammar) Not immediately dependent on the other parts of the sentence; not in a syntactical relation with other parts of a text, or qualifying the text as a whole rather than any single word in it, like "it being over" in "it being over, she left".

#### Total

Including everything;
The overall cost
The total amount owed

#### Absolute

(of a case form) Syntactically connected to the rest of the sentence in an atypical manner, or not relating to or depending on it, like in the nominative absolute or genitive absolute, accusative absolute or ablative absolute.

#### Total

Without conditions or limitations;
A total ban

#### Absolute

(of an adjective or possessive pronoun) Lacking a modified substantive, like "hungry" in "feed the hungry".

#### Total

Complete in extent or degree and in every particular;
A full game
A total eclipse
A total disaster

#### Absolute

Expressing a relative term without a definite comparison, like "older" in "an older person should be treated with respect".

#### Total

Constituting the whole amount or extent.
The total amount was shocking.

#### Absolute

Positive; not graded (not comparative or superlative).

#### Total

The total for the bill was \$50.

#### Absolute

(of a usually transitive verb) Having no direct object, like "kill" in "if looks could kill".

#### Total

Amounting to a large, inclusive sum.
The total damage was extensive.

#### Absolute

(of Celtic languages) Being or pertaining to an inflected verb that is not preceded by any number of particles or compounded with a preverb.

#### Absolute

(math) As measured using an absolute value.
Absolute deviation
Absolute square
Mean absolute difference

#### Absolute

(math) Indicating an expression that is true for all real numbers, or of all values of the variable; unconditional.

#### Absolute

(education) Pertaining to a grading system based on the knowledge of the individual and not on the comparative knowledge of the group of students.

#### Absolute

Independent of (references to) other arts; expressing things (beauty, ideas, etc) only in one art.
Absolute music

#### Absolute

Indicating that a tenure or estate in land is not conditional or liable to terminate on (strictly) any occurrence or certain kinds of occurrence.
A freehold property is an estate in fee simple absolute in possession.

#### Absolute

(obsolete) Absolved; free.

#### Absolute

That which exists (or has a certain property, nature, size, etc) independent of references to other standards or external conditions; that which is universally valid; that which is not relative, conditional, qualified or mitigated.
Moral absolutes

#### Absolute

(geometry) In a plane, the two imaginary circular points at infinity; in space of three dimensions, the imaginary circle at infinity.

#### Absolute

A realm which exists without reference to anything else; that which can be imagined purely by itself; absolute ego.

#### Absolute

The whole of reality; the totality to which everything is reduced; the unity of spirit and nature; God.

#### Absolute

(chemistry) A concentrated natural flower oil, used for perfumes; an alcoholic extract of a concrete.

#### Absolute

Loosed from any limitation or condition; uncontrolled; unrestricted; unconditional; as, absolute authority, monarchy, sovereignty, an absolute promise or command; absolute power; an absolute monarch.

#### Absolute

Complete in itself; perfect; consummate; faultless; as, absolute perfection; absolute beauty.
So absolute she seems,And in herself complete.

#### Absolute

Viewed apart from modifying influences or without comparison with other objects; actual; real; - opposed to relative and comparative; as, absolute motion; absolute time or space.

#### Absolute

Loosed from, or unconnected by, dependence on any other being; self-existent; self-sufficing.

#### Absolute

Capable of being thought or conceived by itself alone; unconditioned; non-relative.
To Cusa we can indeed articulately trace, word and thing, the recent philosophy of the absolute.

#### Absolute

Positive; clear; certain; not doubtful.
I am absolute 't was very Cloten.

#### Absolute

Authoritative; peremptory.
The peddler stopped, and tapped her on the head,With absolute forefinger, brown and ringed.

#### Absolute

Pure; unmixed; as, absolute alcohol.

#### Absolute

Not immediately dependent on the other parts of the sentence in government; as, the case absolute. See Ablative absolute, under Ablative.

#### Absolute

In a plane, the two imaginary circular points at infinity; in space of three dimensions, the imaginary circle at infinity.

#### Absolute

Something that is conceived to be absolute; something that does not depends on anything else and is beyond human control;
No mortal being can influence the absolute

#### Absolute

Perfect or complete or pure;
Absolute loyalty
Absolute silence
Absolute truth
Absolute alcohol

#### Absolute

Complete and without restriction or qualification; sometimes used informally as intensifiers;
Absolute freedom
An absolute dimwit
A downright lie
Out-and-out mayhem
An out-and-out lie
A rank outsider
Many right-down vices
Got the job through sheer persistence
Sheer stupidity

#### Absolute

Not limited by law;
An absolute monarch

#### Absolute

Expressing finality with no implication of possible change;
An absolute (or unequivocal) quarantee to respect the nation's authority
Inability to make a conclusive (or unequivocal) refusal

#### Absolute

Without conditions or limitations;
A total ban

#### Absolute

Not capable of being violated or infringed;
Infrangible human rights

#### Absolute

Perfect, complete, pure.
Her happiness in that moment was absolute.

#### Absolute

Not relative or comparative; fundamental.
Absolute principles guide his decisions.

## FAQs

#### Are Absolute and Total synonymous?

No, Absolute denotes something inherent and unconditional, while Total refers to the whole amount or sum.

#### Can Absolute be used in mathematical terms?

Yes, as in absolute value, representing the distance of a number from zero on the number line.

#### Is Total strictly related to numerical values?

Predominantly yes, it mainly denotes the sum or entirety of numeric values or quantifiable elements.

#### Can Absolute imply perfection?

Yes, it can denote something complete, perfect, and unadulterated.

#### Is Total modifiable?

Yes, Total is subject to addition or aggregation of parts and can be modified.

#### Can Total represent completeness?

Yes, it can represent completeness in extent or degree.

#### Is Total related to entirety?

Yes, it refers to the entire quantity, amount, or extent of something.

#### Can Absolute denote unlimited power?

Yes, it can refer to unrestricted, unlimited power or authority.

#### Can Absolute exist independently?

Yes, Absolute can exist independently and is not subject to external conditions or modifications.

#### Is Absolute relative?

No, Absolute is not relative; it is inherent and unconditional.

#### Can Absolute represent fundamental principles?

Yes, it can represent fundamental, unalterable principles or truths.

#### Does Total always involve numbers?

Mostly, but it can also represent the full extent or whole of non-numeric entities.

#### Is Total used in everyday language?

Yes, Total is commonly used to denote the whole amount or sum in everyday language.

#### Can Total imply a final sum?

Yes, Total often implies a final amount or sum after addition or aggregation.

#### Can Absolute be fundamental?

Yes, it can represent something fundamental and foundational.